The Thermal Fingerprint Developer, a simpler, safer and more economical method for developing fingerprint images, was discovered by UTS Honours students Adam Brown and Daniel Sommerville, and further developed by Dr Brian Reedy and his team at UTS’s Centre for Forensic Science.
A prototype has been developed with UK-based Foster & Freeman Ltd, which supplies scientific instruments to police and forensic laboratories internationally. UTS research commercialisation partner, UniQuest, facilitated a patent application and the licence agreement.
The technology will be showcased at the XTEK stand (representing Foster and Freeman), where the R&D team will demonstrate how this rapid and simple technique can develop ‘invisible’ fingerprints on porous surfaces such as paper, cloth and wood more efficiently.
Current methods for visualising fingerprints on paper are labour-intensive and time-consuming, using toxic dyes and chemicals to stain the fingerprints or make them fluorescent. The Thermal Fingerprint Developer, as the name suggests, uses heat to develop the fingerprint in a matter of seconds.
“This technology has the potential to be used right there at the crime scene, saving critical time as well as resources,” said UniQuest’s UTS-based Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development, Dr Michael Manion.
“It could also be developed into high-throughput models for the rapid analysis of large sample numbers, such as volumes of documents, to help investigators working on ‘white-collar’ crimes like fraud and embezzlement.”
Other advantages of this innovation are that sensitive evidence need not be destroyed in the thermal stage of the process and it supports existing techniques for fingerprint development, such as the use of ninhydrin subsequent to the thermal development process.
UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said showcasing the prototype at the ANZFSS marked a significant milestone along the commercialisation pathway UniQuest had planned for taking the technology to the global market.
“Licensing the Thermal Fingerprint Developer intellectual property to Foster & Freeman was one of the first deals we initiated following the commercialisation collaboration between UniQuest and UTS, which was formalised in 2008,” Mr Henderson said.
“An international symposium presents an ideal opportunity for the researchers to engage with industry and for industry to learn more about the exciting, commercially viable research and creative thinking at Australian universities like UTS.”
UniQuest has fielded enquiries from a range of interested parties, including law enforcement departments in Australia and the US, traditional forensic laboratories, defence services and homeland security agencies.
“Undetonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) often have a wooden top, and because the Thermal Fingerprint Developer can lift prints from these surfaces, potential applications in the field of terrorism investigation look promising. Training manuals left behind usually have fingerprints on them too, so both the high-throughput and the portable models of this technology could prove invaluable,” said Dr Manion.
Organisations involved with clandestine forensics – FBI, ASIO, CIA for example – have also expressed interest and are among the potential customers who may be at the Symposium.
The ANZFSS is one of the largest regular gatherings of forensic science professionals in the Pacific region. More than 900 representatives are expected to attend the event, including delegations from Asia, Europe and the Americas involved with forensic science, legal medicine, law enforcement, security, the judiciary, training and education, research and development, and policy development.
UniQuest Pty Limited
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year.
UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.
P: +61 7 3365 4037
M: +61 0 409767199
Michael ManionP: +61 2 9514 8332
M: 0407 092 712