Top level international crime fighting organisations in the US and Australia have trialled a ground-breaking fingerprint detection device based on research from the University of Technology’s (UTS) Centre for Forensic Science.

UTS research commercialisation partner, UniQuest Pty Limited, licensed the intellectual property to global forensic science equipment company Foster + Freeman, which has manufactured the ‘TFD-2’, a version of the Thermal Fingerprint Developer used in the trials.

The TFD-2 is an automated, high-throughput device capable of developing fingerprints on large quantities of documents. It dramatically reduces search times and manpower requirements for crimes requiring large volumes of office paper to be examined.

Current methods for visualising fingerprints on paper are labour-intensive and time-consuming, using toxic dyes and chemicals to stain the fingerprints or make them fluorescent. The TFD-2 uses heat to develop the fingerprint in a matter of seconds, without destroying sensitive evidence.

A UK forensic laboratory is also planning to test the device for impact on DNA.

Foster + Freeman has showcased the TFD-2 in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the US, as well as to its distributor network in over 80 countries around the world.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said partnering with a strategic industry supplier like Foster + Freeman has connected the researchers and their ideas with the new technology’s target markets.

“Trials and demonstrations with end-users represent important milestones for an innovation’s commercial development, shortening the time gap between a ‘what if’ moment in the research lab and a workable solution helping to solve a globally significant problem,” Mr Henderson said.

“Combining the design and manufacturing capabilities of a key industry partner with the intellectual smarts of Australian academic researchers is win-win outcome for all stakeholders, and in this case, especially for the fight against all kinds of crime.”

While the TFD-2 is a high-throughput model for developing prints on flat surfaces, the researchers –  Dr Brian Reedy, Dr Mark Tahtouh, Adam Brown, Daniel Sommerville, Di Fei Song, and Dr Ronald Shimmon – have also considered a range of applications for the originating technology on which Foster + Freeman has based its device.

“As well as speeding up the analysis of large volumes of documents to help investigators working on ‘white-collar’ crimes like fraud and embezzlement, the concept could also be incorporated into portable models to be used at crime scenes, saving critical time and resources,” said Dr Reedy.

“Retrieving prints from the wooden tops of undetonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their accompanying training manuals could see the technology also making a valuable contribution to anti-terrorism investigations.”

The TFD-2 was recently nominated by the UK’s Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, to receive a prestigious ‘Made by Britain Award’, for “making a vital contribution to the fight against crime and fraud around the world.”

Foster + Freeman’s co-founder, Bob Freeman, said that as scientists he and business partner Doug Foster  strive to create new technology to carry the company forward and turn new ideas into effective products used by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

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