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Amino Acid Alanine Reactivity with the Fingerprint Reagent Ninhydrin. A Detailed Ab Initio Computational Study

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Ninhydrin is one of the most widely used reagents for chemical development of fingerprints on porous surfaces. The detection is based on the reaction of ninhydrin with a monoacidic component of the fingerprint to form an intensively colored compound named Ruhemann's Purple. A computational study of the mechanisms and reaction energetics of the formation of Ruhemann's Purple from ninhydrin and alanine is presented. Such a study is significant from a forensic science point of view because of the strong interest in the forensic chemistry and law enforcement communities in developing alternatives to the current generation of ninhydrin like chemicals for the detection and development of latent fingerprints. Information about the mechanism of reaction between ninhydrin and amino acids can ultimately help to design compounds with stronger chromo-fluorogenic properties in aid of detecting fingerprints at crime scenes. The three most accepted mechanisms of formation have been considered using ab initio quantum mechanical calculations. At relatively high temperature (∼100°C) all three mechanisms are energetically feasible. However since it is recommended that forensic analyses be performed at room temperature, a revised mechanism is proposed for the formation of Ruhemann's Purple under this condition.

Keywords: computational; forensic chemistry; forensic science; hartree-fock SCF calculations; mechanism; ninhydrin; quantum chemistry; ruhemann's Purple

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, 899 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

Publication date: November 1, 2006


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