Degradation of polymer banknotes through handling, and effect on fingermark visualisation

B. J. Jones*, J. W. Cammidge, C. Evans, G. Scott, P. B. Sherriffs, F. Breen, P.M.B. Andersen, K.T. Popov, J. O'Hara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Downloads (Pure)


The surface structure of mint (as-issued) and handled polymer five pounds sterling banknotes was studied by atomic force microscopy and laser scanning confocal microscopy. A total of 1856 fingermarks on mint and handled banknotes from four different issuing banks (Bank of England, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank) were visualised with Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD), Cyanoacrylate Fuming (CAF) and, on Clydesdale Bank notes, magnetic fluorescent powder. VMD was significantly more effective in developing fingermarks on handled banknotes, across all the banks studied, although effectiveness varied with issuing bank. For example, on handled Bank of England notes 45% of marks showed ridge detail with VMD development and 28% with CAF; for Bank of Scotland handled notes success rates were 17% with VMD and 1% with CAF. Microscopy of degraded banknotes showed the loss of intaglio printing and the formation of a cracked surface structure in the handled notes. These features can lead to the trapping of powder, or contaminants, increasing quantity of development agent in fingermark background between the ridges, decreasing contrast and decreasing performance of powder-based fingermark development techniques. These same features can restrict the migration of components of the fingermark, preventing fingermarks degrading through spread of material and thus reducing potential formation of empty prints, so that VMD development is not adversely affected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-656
Number of pages13
JournalScience and Justice
Issue number5
Early online date3 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2022


  • Banknote
  • Latent fingerprints
  • Currency bills
  • Vacuum metal deposition
  • Cyanoacrylate
  • Surface structure


Dive into the research topics of 'Degradation of polymer banknotes through handling, and effect on fingermark visualisation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this