The transfer and persistence of metals in latent fingermarks

05 October 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


In forensic science, knowledge and understanding of material transfer and persistence is inherent to the interpretation of trace evidence and can provide vital information on the activity level surrounding a crime. Detecting metal ions in fingermark residue has long been of interest in the field of forensic science, due to the possibility of linking trace metal ion profiles to prior activity with specific metal objects (e.g. gun or explosive handling). Unfortunately, the imaging capability to visualise trace metal ions at sufficient spatial resolution to determine their distribution within a fingermark (micron level) was not previously available. Here, we demonstrate for the first time transfer and persistence of metals in fingermarks, at micron spatial resolution, using synchrotron sourced x-ray fluorescence microscopy. Fingermarks were taken before and after brief handling of a gun barrel, ammunition cartridge case and party sparkler to demonstrate the transfer of metals. The results reveal increased metal content after contact with these objects, and critically, a differential pattern of metal ion increase was observed after handling different objects. Persistence studies indicate that these metals are removed as easily as they are transferred, with a brief period of hand washing appearing to successfully remove metallic residue from subsequent fingermarks. Preliminary work using x-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopic mapping highlighted the potential use of this technique to differentiate between different chemical forms of metals and metal ions in latent fingermarks. It is anticipated that these findings can now be used to assist future work for the advancement of trace metal detection tests and fingermark development procedures


forensic science
latent fingermarks
X-ray fluorescence microscopy
elemental mapping
synchrotron radiation

Supplementary materials

Table of contents graphical entry
Graphic linking firearms, sparklers and ammunition to elemental map of latent fingermarks


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