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A form of mass spectrometry to detect traces of substances within a fingerprint (bbc.com)
13 points by willvarfar 9 days ago | hide | past | web | 4 comments | favorite

Mass spectrometry has been around for decades now. I remember seeing old (before even my time) manual plots on graph paper from the '60s. Without wishing to detract from the researchers accomplishments, why hasn't this been done before? What special thing are they doing that wasn't possible before?

MS as a concept has been around, but new and more sensitive detector designs are developed every so often. new ionization techniques come along as well, which can generate ions from smaller and smaller sample quantities with less and less preparation.

that article is devoid of useful information, but i'd guess this is the result of one of the new ionization techniques, and it took some years after its commercial introduction to be validated for forensic use.

Ah interesting, thanks. Googling a bit more for ionization techniques suggests you might be right, and it might be: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix-assisted_laser_desorpti... (based on a reference in http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/new...)

I feel like I may be missing something....are they performing MS analysis on the powdered COPY of the fingerprint or are they analysing the actual fingerprint (and presumably the actual item that was touched and has the invisible fingerprint physically on it)?

If the former, then I'm not sure how they're getting accurate results.....if the latter....that could be complicated if it's a piece of furniture or something larger than the chamber used in the MS analysis.....

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