CRIME: Breakthrough uncovers fingerprints on ATM receipts

The Hot Print System is a new development to automatically and 
consistently develop fingerprints on thermal paper such as till receipts.

In the real world as in fiction, it's getting harder and harder to be a successful bad guy.  Admittedly, many if not most criminals are, to be polite, dolts, and, according to other research released in the past year, opportunists rather than thoughtful.  Still, technology is making it harder for both the opportunists and the meticulous.  For example ~

A new technology in the fight against theft and fraud, developed by Dr John Bond OBE from the University of Leicester's Department of Chemistry, uses a specially tailored UV light source to visualize fingerprints not possible to see on 'thermal paper' using any other technique, specifically the paper used for receipts and statements from ATMs.

Historically, the process of visualizing fingerprints on thermal paper has been impossible, as the solvent used in the chemical treatment can color the dye and turn the whole paper black, making thermal paper a 'problem surface' from which to recover fingerprints.

The Hot Print System
Several years ago, Dr Bond reported a method of fingerprint recovery from thermal paper by applying heat to the paper. This has been developed into commercial equipment, manufactured in the UK and sold worldwide as the Hot Print System (HPS). However, the HPS manufacturer recently reported that the properties of thermal paper seemed to vary between countries, particularly in the US and China, which led Dr Bond to invent this latest crime-fighting technique.

According to Dr Bond, "This new technology offers a new way of easily looking for fingerprints on an increasing source of paperwork that criminals are likely to handle when committing a variety of offences.

Actual fingerprint recovered on
thermal paper by the Hot Print
System technology.
"When I started researching fingerprint recovery from thermal paper, I didn't realize that not all thermal papers are the same. In this latest development the light source provides non-invasive examination of thermal paper and can be carried out very quickly with the minimum of training to locate fingerprints. The HPS can then be used to develop the fingerprint to enable capture as a digital image.  If development with the HPS is faint, the light source can be used to illuminate faint prints to enhance digital capture. This latest technology therefore complements my other work in this area and the HPS.

"Techniques like this are preferred by the police as they offer quick and easy examination of forensic items for fingerprints. Like all this work, the bottom line is helping the police to lock up the bad guys."

The device was recently presented at the Forensics Europe Expo, an adjunct to the Counter Terrorism Expo, which took place 29 -- 30 April, Olympia, London.

Suggested reading
click on image
Dr Bond also presented at the Expo on a second device, used for storing a used firearm shell in a sterile container that ensures minimal contact with the outer surface of the casing, which is where extraneous DNA or fingerprints would be picked up under normal circumstances.

Dr Bond explained: "Current recovery and storage methods invariably mean there is frictional contact with the packaging that can smudge or remove any material present which, as we know, is only in small amounts to start with so anything that better preserves this evidence is to be welcomed.

"This invention is a natural extension to look at all aspects of evidence recovery, storage and processing rather than just focusing on evidence processing. Having done the job for 20 years, you get an appreciation for the whole process and where the weaknesses are; this is often not appreciated by researchers who just focus on the processing part."

The technology could lead to better retention of DNA and fingerprint material from crime scenes involving the discharge of a firearm.
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Story Source:  Materials provided by University of Leicester. "Breakthrough technology uncovers fingerprints on ATM bills and receipts." ScienceDaily.


  1. Jim---

    This is a blessing not only to crime fiction writers, but to actual law officers unable to benefit from complex info databases located only a large urban centers. Thank you for that. Perhaps writers will include your site in passing so locals who don't know about it can pick it up.

    1. There are so many scientists working on so many disparate projects that it's a full-time job keeping up. Thanks for the comment.


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