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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 39  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 10-11

Nanotechnology - The future armour of forensics: A short review


1 Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, KLE University's J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Adichuchanagiri Medical College, Belur, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication21-May-2012

Correspondence Address:
Vinay R Hallikeri
Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, KLE University's J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka - 590 010
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-5009.96460

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  Abstract 

Nanotechnology is the study of the control of matter of an atomic and molecular scale. At present the most widespread forensic application of micro fluidic systems is post-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) quantization. These systems are currently being used in several forensic laboratories to perform post-PCR quantification of mitochondrial DNA. Another innovation relates to assisting in solving gun crime. Using a nanoscale developer and an X-ray source, it is possible to image the etched fingerprints even if the casing has been wiped or washed. This technology is going to revolutionize the fields of virtopsy, crime scene investigation, identification, forensic ballistics, and toxicology.

Keywords: Biosecurity, finger print extraction, micro fluidic systems, nanotechnology, post PCR quantization


How to cite this article:
Hallikeri VR, Bai M, Vijay Kumar A G. Nanotechnology - The future armour of forensics: A short review. J Sci Soc 2012;39:10-1

How to cite this URL:
Hallikeri VR, Bai M, Vijay Kumar A G. Nanotechnology - The future armour of forensics: A short review. J Sci Soc [serial online] 2012 [cited 2017 Apr 28];39:10-1. Available from: http://www.jscisociety.com/text.asp?2012/39/1/10/96460


  Introduction Top


Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. Nanotechnology is one such prodigal product of recent technical advancement. A nanoparticle is a matter of the order of size of a nanometer, ranging from anything less than 100 nm. To put it in simple terms, nanotechnology is the study of the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. It deals with developing material or devices of sizes 100 nm or smaller. [1] Apart from other areas, it has found its application in the medical field as well, right from the manufacture of ultraviolet (UV) protective sun lotions to sophisticated drug delivery systems, cancer therapeutics, and nanosurgery. This has been termed as, 'Nanomedicine'. [2] The magnitude of exploitation of such a technology in forensics is magnanimous. Hence, an attempt has been made to briefly review nanotechnology with regard to its application in the forensic field.


  Potential in Forensic DNA Analysis Top


At present the most widespread forensic application of the micro fluidic systems is post-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) quantization. The commercially available Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer uses an array of multiple channels to inject and quantify nanoliter amounts of 12 double-stranded DNA samples in less than 30 minutes. These systems are currently being used in several forensic laboratories to perform post-PCR quantification of mitochondrial DNA and have run times of less than two minutes per sample. On account of their small size, the potential of such devices being used at the crime scene is widely mentioned. Besides, it is the convenience of the rapid, disposable device that requires minimal cleanup and maintenance that will drive the technology. [3]


  Developments with Fingerprint Extraction at the Crime Scene Top


The ideal fingerprint powder will stick to the residues left by the finger, which give rise to the characteristic patterns that everyone identifies as a fingerprint, but will not stick to anything else. Many common materials also stick to the background, making a clear identification significantly harder to achieve. Nanotechnology is being used to engineer particles to overcome this problem. The first aspect that is being investigated is the use of nanoscale powders to provide clearer images. A number of groups are looking into this, but a group at the Sydney University recently has reported that 20 nm Zinc Oxide powders not only give better prints and are inherently UV fluorescent, but also work in wet conditions, something conventional micron-sized powders cannot do. Other researchers have been using particles that are less than 10 nm, which also fluoresce under UV light, to improve the development of fingerprints. They have been developing nanopowders that have been engineered to enable them to be used in conjunction with SALDI-TOF2-MS. This means that when a fingerprint is developed using these powders, the chemicals, both the residues from contact with other materials and those excreted, which form part of the fingerprint, can be analyzed and identified. For example, if the donor of the print has been handling explosives or illegal drugs, then the contact residues will appear in the fingerprint and can be identified. This is only possible with these nano-engineered powders. As sweat and other secretions are also a means of removing waste chemicals from the body, the analysis can be taken a stage further and the excreted metabolites can also be identified. Therefore, drug users can be differentiated from those who have only handled the drugs. Another innovation relates to assisting in solving gun crime. Researchers at the Leicester University have developed a technique utilizing the fact that when someone leaves a fingerprint on a bullet casing, the chemicals in the print start to corrode the surface of the metal. Using a nanoscale developer and an X-ray source it is possible to image the etched fingerprints even if the casing has been wiped or washed. This opens up the possibility of examining evidence from gun crimes that would not have been possible a few years ago. [4]

Hidden fingerprints can now be revealed quickly and reliably by using nanotechnology. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, have replaced the traditional gold solution with a more stable equivalent. The gold nanoparticles bristle with long hydrocarbon chains and are suspended in petrol ether. They stick to the fingerprint residues through hydrophobic interactions and can be developed with silver, as before, producing high quality prints, after an immersion time of just three minutes. The team has also developed a fingerprinting method for non-porous surfaces, using a petrol ether suspension of cadmium selenide / zinc sulfide nanoparticles stabilized by long chain amines. As with the team's gold solution, the nanoparticles adhere to the fingerprint by hydrophobic interactions. However, in this case, as the nanoparticles fluoresce under UV light to reveal clear fluorescent prints, no additional developing stage is needed. [5]


  Development with Medical Professionalism and Biosecurity Top


The secondary targeting of hospitals by bioterrorists may be part of a tactic to disable disaster response plans. Nanotechnology allows medical professionals to assess, warn, and protect the public in relation to such bioterrorist threats. Implementation of a forensic protocol requiring the use of nanotechnology sensors to rapidly and effectively detect biohazardous substances associated with such patients is also likely to facilitate forensic processes associated with the formal justice system. Nanotechnology diagnostics would more rapidly detect pleural effusions, rib fractures, ruptured organs and blood vessels, and shrapnel. [6]


  Conclusion Top


This brief review can only hint at the potential of this new area of research. A lot needs to be addressed on the future effectiveness, cost cutting, accuracy of integration of technology, and health and environmental safety aspects, with respect to the field of forensics, before it comes into routine application. Is this technology going to revolutionize the fields of virtopsy, crime scene investigation, identification, forensic ballistics and toxicology? Is this the technology of future forensics?

 
  References Top

1.Norio T. On the Basic Concept of 'Nano-Technology'. Proc. Intl. Conf. Prod. Eng. Tokyo, Part II, Japan Society of Precision Engineering; 1974.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.Allhoff F. The Coming Era of Nanomedicine. Am J Bioethics 2009;9:3-11.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.McCord B. Nanotechnology and its Potential in Forensic DNA Analysis. Vol. 9. Profiles in DNA; 2006. p. 7-9. Available from: http://www.promega.com/resources/articles/profiles-in-dna/2006/nanotechnology-and-its-potential-in-forensic-dna-analysis/. [Last accessed 2011 Aug 2].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.Mike P. Nanotechnology and Forensics. Mater Today (Kidlington) 2009;12:6.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.Fingerprints revealed by Nanotechnology. Highlights in Chemical Sciences RSC Publishing. Available from: http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/.../hiddenfingerprints.asp. [Last accessed 2011 Aug 2].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.Oxenham M. Forensic Nanotechnology, Biosecurity and Medical Professionalism: Improving the Australian Health Care System's Response to Terrorist Bombings. 1st ed. Bowen Hills Qld: Australian Academic Press; 2008. Available from: http://www.books.google.co.in/books?isbn=1875378901. [Last accessed 2011 Aug 2].  Back to cited text no. 6
    




 

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