Technologies Used in Forensic Sciences

08 Aug, 2016 | SEM & Imaging - Guide
Technologies Used in Forensic Sciences

Technology is quickly taking over every aspect of our lives, and solving crimes is no different. In fact, the rapid changes and improvements in technology have meant that solving crimes almost takes on a futuristic factor, like something from a work of fiction.

During the forensic science process, forensic equipment is used to process samples and evidence and hopefully solve crimes. Measurements include analysis of evidence, fingerprinting or DNA identification, analysing drugs or chemicals and dealing with body fluids. Importantly, it is the fusion of science and technology that allows forensic scientists to do a lot of their work. Sciences such as biology, chemistry and mathematics are combined with various technologies to process evidence.

There are loads of different technologies used in the forensic sciences, some that have been made famous by television shows like Bones, CSI and NCIS, and others that most people never even knew existed.

Technologies used

1. Phenom SEM

A pretty cool piece of equipment, the Phenom SEM for Gun Shot Residue allows crime labs to search for gunshot residue particles. The technology then characterises the residue using energy dispersive spectroscopy quickly distinguishing the gunshot particles from dust, dirt and other fibres. It’s all automated, and the software and hardware are fully integrated so it’s very user-friendly.

2. Alternative light photography

One of the quickest ways to detect whether damage has been done to a body before it even surfaces on the skin, alternative light photography is used by forensic nurses and can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. The camera uses blue light and orange filters to see whether bruising has occurred below the skin’s surface.

3. Digital surveillance for gaming equipment

Many criminals use gaming equipment such as Xboxes because many people assume that gaming systems aren’t a place to hide data. The XFT Device will give authorities access to hidden files on Xbox hard drives and can also record access sessions to be used as evidence in court.

4. Facial reconstruction

If you’ve ever watched Bones, you’ll know that Angela Montenegro is the queen of facial reconstructions. She also has all the best equipment, but this equipment is also used by many forensic labs to determine the appearance of victims who are too decomposed or damaged to make a visual identification. The user inputs data into the software, including information regarding human remains, and a possible physical appearance is deduced.

5. DNA Sequencing

DNA is used to identify both criminals and victims by using trace evidence such as hair or skin. DNA Sequences come a variety of strengths and the degradation of the sample will largely determine how powerful the DNA Sequencer must be. The sequencer identifies a unique pattern of DNA that can possibly help identify a person.

6. Automated Fingerprint Identification

Fingerprint identification comes in a variety of technologies, allowing forensic scientists to compare fingerprints found to an extensive digital database. Newer technologies such as magnetic fingerprinting dust means investigators are able to get a perfect impression without compromising the fingerprint.

7. Link Analysis Software

Link Analysis Software is all to do with accountants and tracking funds. Often, there is a mountain of paperwork involved with funds. Enter Link Analysis Software, which highlights any strange financial activity found within the paper trail. The software looks at financial transactions and the profile of the customer, and using statistics it generates possible illegal behaviour.

8. Drug testing

Forensic teams are often requested to identify unknown substances, whether in powder, liquid or pill form. Labs use colour testing, which indicates there is a substance present and confirmatory testing, which specifically identifies what kind of substance it is. Other tests also include ultraviolent spectrophotometry, using ultraviolent and infrared lights to see how the substance reacts; gas chromatography, which isolates the drug from mixing agents that may be present; and microcrystalline testing, which uses the crystal patterns formed to determine what drug is present.

9. Putting the pieces back

The Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) helps put even the minutest pieces of glass back together. This helps forensic scientists determine the direction of bullets, force of impact or even the type of weapon used if a crime has been committed. The LA-ICP-MS helps forensic scientists determine what type of glass is found and can match it to other types of glass in a database.

10. Fire investigations

When arsonists attack, there is very rarely much evidence left at the scene. However, arsonists usually use accelerants to speed up a blaze. Forensic scientists use technologies to heat samples taken from the scene causing any residue to separate. This sample is then analysed to determine the chemical structure. Scientists also use other tests such as using liquid nitrogen gas to trap residue which are then analysed using gas chromatography.

Our PHENOM Desktop SEM range offers effective solutions for assessing gunshot residue particles and arranging a free consultation is easy. Contact ATA Scientific today.