Determining the chronology of deposition of natural fingermarks and inks on paper using secondary ion mass spectrometry

Nicola Attard-Montalto*, Jesús J. Ojeda, Alan Reynolds, Mahado Ismail, Melanie Bailey, Lisette Doodkorte, Marcel De Puit, Benjamin J. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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This study thoroughly explores the use of time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) for determining the deposition sequence of fingermarks and ink on a porous paper surface. Our experimental work has demonstrated that mapping selected endogenous components present in natural fingermarks enables the observation of friction ridges on a laser-printed surface, only when a fingerprint is deposited over this layer of ink. Further investigations have shown limited success on ink-jet printing and ballpoint pen inks. 51 blind tests carried out on natural, latent fingermarks on laser-printed surfaces; up to 14th depletion with samples aged for up to 421 days have resulted in a 100% success rate. Development with ninhydrin was found to affect the fingermark residue through mobilisation of ions, therefore sequencing determination was compromised; whilst iodine fuming and 1,2-indanedione developers did not. This implied that selected development methods affected success in fingermark-ink deposition order determination. These results were further corroborated through inter-laboratory validation studies. The adopted protocol and extensive series of tests have therefore demonstrated the effectiveness and limitations of ToF-SIMS in providing chronological sequencing information of fingermarks on questioned documents; successfully resolving this order of deposition query. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4641-4653
Number of pages13
Issue number18
Early online date22 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


Cite this

Attard-Montalto, N., Ojeda, J. J., Reynolds, A., Ismail, M., Bailey, M., Doodkorte, L., De Puit, M., & Jones, B. J. (2014). Determining the chronology of deposition of natural fingermarks and inks on paper using secondary ion mass spectrometry. Analyst, 139(18), 4641-4653.