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British crime-fighting device sparks interest in the US

14 November 2012

A ‘bullet fingerprint’ visualisation technique pioneered by a University of Leicester scientist has been commercialised in the US.

Dr John Bond OBE
Dr John Bond OBE

Dr John Bond, a senior lecturer in Forensic Sciences in the Department of Chemistry who was awarded an OBE last year for his services to forensic science, is one of the driving forces -  along with Dr Lisa Smith, a lecturer in the Department of Criminology - behind the University of Leicester’s new Forensic Science Institute that opens on 19 November.

Dr Bond’s work on Visualising Fingerprint Corrosion of Metal was voted one of the top 50 inventions of 2008 by Time Magazine and one of the inventions most likely to change the world in 2009 by BBC Focus Magazine. He developed the innovative technique, in collaboration with the University, of visualising fingerprints on metal while working at Northamptonshire Police.

The former Scientific Support Manager at Northamptonshire Police found a technique that reveals previously undiscovered fingerprints on metal, especially gun shell casings, by applying a large voltage to the metal and then adding ceramic beads coated with a fine powder to the surface.

This reacts with the corrosion on the metal left over from fingerprints, even after they have been wiped off, revealing the original fingerprint pattern.

The innovation was patented by the Police Authority and an exclusive licence was granted to Consolite Forensics to manufacture, market and sell the Cartridge Electrostatic Recovery and Analysis (CERA) system worldwide.

The first machine has recently been sold, yielding the Police Authority a royalty of several thousand pounds.

Dr Bond, who still retains close links with the Force although now employed by the University of Leicester, revealed that other subsequent inventions are in the process of being commercialised by Consolite and the University.

He said: “I am delighted to hear that the first machine has been sold and that this is bringing some benefit to policing in Northamptonshire. I still retain strong links with the Force in respect of overseeing University student projects around the area of scientific support.

“In April, I gave evidence in court about CERA in Marin County, California which was a milestone and next month I am visiting California again to discuss CERA with the alcohol, tobacco and firearms agency that has a CERA machine on test. It reflects the fact that CERA is now established as a new way of finding fingerprints, the innovation is not a flash in the pan."

Thehe technology has opened up new possibilities - taking fingerprints from surfaces exposed to extreme heat (shell casing), waterlogging (a weapon that has been down a drain, for example) and everyday items such as thermal paper, till receipts and cashpoint ATM surrounds.

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