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Chemical Differences Are Observed in Children’s Versus Adults’ Latent Fingerprints as a Function of Time

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The identification of aged latent fingerprints is often difficult, especially for those of children. To understand this phenomenon, the chemical composition of children’s versus adults’ latent fingerprints was examined over time using Fourier transform infrared microscopy. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed that children’s and adults’ prints were distinguishable for up to 4 weeks after deposition, based on differences in sebum composition. Specifically, adults had a higher lipid content than children, but both decreased over time, attributable to the volatility of free fatty acids. The aliphatic CH3, aliphatic CH2, and carbonyl ester compositions changed differently in adults versus children over time, consistent with higher cholesterol and cholesteryl esters in children’s prints and wax esters and glycerides in adults’ prints. Thus, fingerprint composition changes with time differently in children versus adults, making it a sensitive metric to estimate the age of an individual, especially when the age of the print is known.
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Keywords: Fourier transform infrared microscopy; chemical composition; children; cholesterol; cholesteryl esters; forensic science; free fatty acids; hierarchical cluster analysis; latent fingerprints; squalene; wax esters

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Synchrotron Light Source, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY. 2: National University, San Diego, CA.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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