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 journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


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


  • Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS)
  • Fingerprints
  • Laser printing
  • Paper
  • Questioned documents
  • Forensic science


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  • Microscopy in forensic science

    Jones, B. J., 17 Sept 2019, Springer handbook of microscopy. Hawkes, P. W. & Spence, J. C. H. (eds.). Cham: Springer, p. 1507-1523 17 p. (Springer Handbooks).

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    Open Access
    3 Citations (Scopus)
    735 Downloads (Pure)

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