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A Mechanistic Model for the Superglue Fuming of Latent Fingerprints

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The use of superglue vapors to detect latent fingerprints, known as superglue fuming, is a chemical process that has not been fully described. The role of the fingerprint material in the process, leading to formation of methyl cyanoacrylate polymer at the site of the fingerprint, remains to be established. Films of liquid alkanes respond similarly to actual fingerprints in the fuming experiment. Their responses depended on the hydrocarbon used, viscosity, and film thickness. Aspects such as film thickness appear to be relevant for actual fingerprints as well. A model was proposed in light of these observations. The model compares the process with gas chromatography, in which molecules partition between the gas phase and a stationary phase. Aspects such as accumulation of superglue monomers by partitioning into a thin film (or wax) are consistent with the preferential response of fingerprints on surfaces relative to the background.

Keywords: forensic science; gas chromatography; latent fingerprints; mechanism; model; superglue fuming

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00258.x

Affiliations: Department of Chemistry, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ 08628.

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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