Finding Invisible Fingerprints

Fingerprint: Difficult surfaces


How to find ‘invisible’ prints

Dr. John Bond, a British inventor has developed a unique and revolutionary new technique for uncovering hidden fingerprints. Dr. Bond’s procedure could be the key to many unsolved murders and other crimes. In fact, one police detective, Garrie Dorman, from Bristol, Connecticut, traveled 3,500 miles to meet with the doctor, hoping to solve the 1998 murder case of Louis “Pete” LaFontaine.

Detective Dorman delivered an evidence bag containing bullet casings to Dr. Bond, who then conducted his new procedure on the brass. Suddenly, two fingerprints that had not shown up in earlier testing, appeared on the casings.

John Bond

Dr Bond’s technique can reveal “hidden” fingerprints on metal – especially shell casings – by detecting the minute traces of corrosion on the surface caused by salt in the sweat on human fingers.

This type corrosion never goes away, and the shooter can’t wipe it off. Even the intense heat that’s generated when the weapon is fired can’t destroy the embedded corrosion-induced fingerprint.

Dr. Bond’s fingerprinting technique has been described by Time magazine as one of the top 50 inventions of 2008.

Dr Bond said, “Normal fingerprinting requires a residue of sweat to be left on the metal, but my technique doesn’t need that, and it can work when conventional techniques fail.

Bond’s process is unbelievably simple. The shell casing is held against an electrical terminal that charges it with 2,500 Volts. Then, electrically charged ceramic beads that have been coated with a very fine, black powered are poured on the corroded portion of the casing.

“The black powder just reveals where the corrosion pattern is, then we heat the sample to bake the powder in place and photograph it for standard fingerprint comparison,” Dr Bond added. “We often get prints from the forefinger or thumb, where the person loading the weapon has pushed bullets into the magazine.”

Oddly, Dr Bond’s breakthrough invention is made only from a cardboard box, a popsicle stick, and a few pieces of wire, tape, and metal. Nevertheless, the device works and just may solve many cold cases.


Thanks to Norm Benson for today’s topic idea.

* Friday’s Heroes will resume next week. Unfortunately, the good luck we experienced last week did not continue.

17 replies
  1. Jonathan Hayes
    Jonathan Hayes says:

    And, of course, what’s so great about it is that every time someone fires a semiautomatic – which I’d guess accounts for the majority of homicides these days – a spent casing is ejected onto the scene, and rarely removed…

  2. Janet Rudolph
    Janet Rudolph says:

    This is incredible. The photo looks like a high school experiment, but boy does Dr. Bond have something going here. Thanks for letting us know. I agree with one other poster–should be James Bond!

  3. Timber Beast
    Timber Beast says:

    Lee – Boy howdy, WordPress is not the most user-friendly blogware around. I’m thinking of posting a little info on how I finally was able to get the little favicon (like that little “B” surrounded by orange for blogger stuff or the W for WordPress) next to my url. I think your favicon should be a couple of handcuffs.

  4. kennac
    kennac says:

    This is fascinating. I assume that the technique will work on any metal, not just bullets (as long as it’s not painted). Anything that would receive the same corrosive etching. Lots of fodder for thought, there.

    Thanks, Lee – informative as always!

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Norm – By the way, thanks to you I had to learn how to embed a video last night. And as I’m sure you know, WordPress isn’t the most user-friendly thing in the world. But I managed because there was no way I wanted to post this article without having the video of Dr. Bond’s invention.

  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    You’re too kind, Norm, but I’m telling the truth. Most of the time I write these things off the top of my head, in the mornings, just before I post them. I did this one last night because I had to do a little research. Then I posted it accidentally by hitting post instead of save. By the time I realized what I’d done it was too late. I’d already received tons of visits.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    It is cool, Norm. Thanks for the information.

    Yes, I have used that feature, but I normally choose to post manually. Mainly, I do that because I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write until that morning. I know, I’m slack.

  8. Timber Beast
    Timber Beast says:

    That is so cool. A cardboard box and 2500 volts zapped inside it.

    About posting to a date in the future (or even the past) in WordPress, it’s a nice feature but it can be tricky. I assume you’ve used it before?

  9. JeanLauzier
    JeanLauzier says:

    Actually…one of the CSI guys will remember an article about this in some journal and rig up their own version for that episode and solve the case with the previously invisible print. 🙂

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    pabrown – We’ve always been able to recover prints from casings, but not once they’ve been wiped clean, or were invisible even after dusting. This technique is amazing.

    I imagine CSI will be begin using the method on their shows once someone designs a better package instead of a cardboard box.

  11. pabrown
    pabrown says:

    Hey, reality meets CSI. They’re always recovering fingerprints from shell casings and bullets. Now they can pretend they knew it all along — although the technique used doesn’t sound high tech enough for the visuals on TV. LOL.

  12. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    SZ – I’m sure Dr. Bond will be quite wealthy before this is all over.

    Joyce – I agree. Bond, John Bond, doesn’t quite do it. However, I’ll take Dr. Bond’s paycheck when all is said and done with his invention.

    Terry – Today’s post was an error. It was meant to for it to go online on Monday, but, I accidentally posted it. When I realized my mistake it was too late to change. Hundreds of visitors had already viewed it. Maybe I’ll try to stay on course by posting a weekend edition of Friday’s Heroes instead of waiting until next week.

  13. SZ
    SZ says:

    How brilliant ! It seems odd that this discovery is new. He should be able to sell this and be rewarded for his findings.

    Sad to hear we did not get a second week of peace for the officers.

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