Visualisation of fingermarks and grab impressions on dark fabrics using silver vacuum metal deposition

Susan Knighting, Joanna Fraser, Keith R. Sturrock, Paul Deacon, Stephen Bleay, David H. Bremner

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    17 Citations (Scopus)
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    Vacuum metal deposition (VMD) involves the thermal evaporation of metal (silver) in a vacuum, resulting in a uniform layer being deposited on the specimen being treated. This paper examines the use of silver on dark fabrics, thus offering a simpler operation and more obvious colouration to that of the traditional use of gold and zinc metals which must be evaporated separately. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of fabric type, donor, mark age and method of fingermark deposition on the quality of marks visualised using silver VMD. This was achieved by collecting fingermark deposits from fifteen donors, of both sexes and various ages, by a grab or a press method. Four different fabrics: satin, polyester, polycotton and cotton were studied over a 10 day timeline of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 21 and 28 + days. It was found that satin and polyester gave the most positive results, with polyester often producing excellent ridge detail. Cotton and polycotton were less successful with no ridge detail being observed. The donors also had an observable effect on the results obtained probably due to variations in secretions produced or pressures applied during specimen collection. The age of the mark or the method of mark deposition had little influence on the results obtained. Silver VMD is a viable process for visualising marks on certain dark fabrics and has the advantage over gold/zinc VMD in that the marks visualised are light in colour which contrasts well against the dark background.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)309-314
    Number of pages6
    JournalScience & Justice
    Issue number3
    Early online date31 Jan 2013
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


    • Fingermarks
    • Silver
    • Vacuum metal deposition
    • Fabrics


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