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Examination of the Steps Leading up to the Physical Developer Process for Developing Fingerprints

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This is a systematic study that examines several acid prewashes and water rinses on paper bearing latent prints before its treatment with a silver physical developer. Specimens or items processed with this method are usually pretreated with an acid wash to neutralize calcium carbonate from the paper before the treatment with a physical developer. Two different acids at varying concentrations were tested on fingerprints. Many different types of paper were examined in order to determine which acid prewash was the most beneficial. Various wash times as well as the addition of a water rinse step before the development were also examined. A pH study was included that monitored the acidity of the solution during the wash step. Scanning electron microscopy was used to verify surface calcium levels for the paper samples throughout the experiment. Malic acid at a concentration of 2.5% proved to be an ideal acid for most papers, providing good fingerprint development with minimal background development. Water rinses were deemed unnecessary before physical development.

Keywords: SEM; SEM-EDS; acid wash; fingerprint; fingerprint development; forensic science; malic acid; nitric acid; physical developer; water rinse

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: IISI Corporation, 19 Sterling Road, North Billerica, MA 01862. 2: United States Secret Service, Forensic Services Division, Research Section, 950 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20223

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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