Condom brand identification from traces in fingerprints

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  • Published: Apr 3, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Infrared Spectroscopy / Raman / Base Peak

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Scientists in the UK, who have a good record of gleaning chemical information from fingerprints, have now succeeded in distinguishing various brands of condoms by trace residues left on the fingers after handling them. Simona Francese and colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University and Waters UK used a number of spectroscopic techniques to provide complementary information that helped to produce characteristic signatures which will help forensic investigators.

In the past, the research group has shown how to identify the gender of suspects from the peptides and proteins in their fingerprints, also known these days as fingermarks, as well as confirming drug handling by detecting traces of narcotics. Now, they have widened their scope by using mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to characterise the components of condoms originating from the lubricants, as they describe in Analyst.

MALDI mass spectrometry imaging, combined with tandem mass spectrometry, identified components such as the spermicide nonoxynol-9, and polymers like poly(ethylene glycol), the surfactant Tween 20 and a hydroxy polyoxypropylene-polyoxyethylene copolymer. However, caution must be taken if relying on poly(ethylene glycol) because it is a common lab contaminant. The characteristic stretching bands observed in the Raman spectra of the fingerprints and the bands in the ATR-FTIR spectra combined with the mass spectrometric data were used to differentiate between six different types of condom.

The team proposed an integrated workflow incorporating the three techniques with the recorded data being compared against a reference database of condom profiles. This would help to provide a link between assailant and victim in sexual crimes.

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