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J Forensic Sci. 2015 Mar;60(2):295-302. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12648. Epub 2014 Nov 24.

Comparison of the columnar-thin-film and vacuum-metal-deposition techniques to develop sebaceous fingermarks on nonporous substrates.

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Forensic Science Program, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802.


Both the columnar-thin-film (CTF) and the vacuum-metal-deposition (VMD) techniques for visualizing sebaceous fingermarks require the deposition of a material thereon in a vacuum chamber. Despite that similarity, there are many differences between the two techniques. The film deposited with the CTF technique has a columnar morphology, but the film deposited with the VMD technique comprises discrete islands. A split-print methodology on a variety of fingermarked substrates was used to determine that the CTF technique is superior for developing fingermarks on clear sandwich bags and partial bloody fingermarks on stainless steel. Both techniques are similar in their ability to develop fingermarks on glass but the CTF technique yields higher contrast. The VMD technique is superior for developing fingermarks on white grocery bags and the smooth side of Gloss Finish Scotch Multitask(™) tape. Neither technique worked well for fingermarks on black garbage bags.


columnar thin film; fingermark; forensic science; morphology; partial bloody fingermark; vacuum metal deposition

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