Like most websites The Analytical Scientist uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. Learn more.
Subscribe to Newsletter
Techniques & Tools Spectroscopy, Mass Spectrometry, Forensics

ToF-SIMS: A Secret Forensics Weapon?

Bullet casing with fingerprint

A team of researchers at the University of Nottingham, headed by James Sharp, have developed a unique ToF-SIMS method for imaging fingerprints left behind on curved objects, such as bullet casings (1). Traditionally, these objects pose a challenge for forensic scientists both because of their tricky shapes, but also the physical conditions the bullet is exposed to – namely, high temperature and pressure.

The team had already proven that ToF-SIMS provides much more accurate and detailed images than conventional forensic techniques, but they have now added a rotational stage that allows even more detail to be gained over the entire surface area of a bullet casing – crucially, in a non-destructive manner. The stage allows the instrument to analyze a thin strip before the object is rotated by a few degrees; the strips are stitched together to form a complete image. The extra detail was able to pick up ridge and sweat pore level detail on samples where no fingermarks had previously been detected. 

“It’s really exciting to be taking this research a step further by adding the rotational stage,” said Sharp in a press release (2). “This could really pave the way for a new reliable way to analyze evidence, identify persons of interest, and link them to the ammunition in a firearm.” 

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Analytical Scientist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. CJ Lee et al., Analyst (2021). DOI: 10.1039/D1AN01768C
  2. EurekAlert (2021). Available at: 
About the Author
Lauren Robertson

By the time I finished my degree in Microbiology I had come to one conclusion – I did not want to work in a lab. Instead, I decided to move to the south of Spain to teach English. After two brilliant years, I realized that I missed science, and what I really enjoyed was communicating scientific ideas – whether that be to four-year-olds or mature professionals. On returning to England I landed a role in science writing and found it combined my passions perfectly. Now at Texere, I get to hone these skills every day by writing about the latest research in an exciting, creative way.

Related Application Notes
White Paper - Cutting-edge Cryogenic Raman Microscope

| Contributed by WITec

Eliminating the Logistical Challenges of NMR Data Processing with Browser-Based Software

| Contributed by ACD Labs

Reaction Tracking of UV-Curable Resin by FTIR IRXross

| Contributed by Shimadzu

Related Webinars
Techniques & Tools Spectroscopy
The Analytical Spectroscopy Technology Forum

| Sponsored by WITec GmbH, Bruker Optics, Hamamatsu Photonics Europe GmbH, and DRS Daylight Solutions

Techniques & Tools Liquid Chromatography
The Next-Level LC-MS Technology Forum

| Sponsored by ACD Labs, Agilent, Tosoh and Andrew Alliance (Waters)

Techniques & Tools Thin Layer Chromatography
Comprehensive HPTLC Fingerprinting for Quality Control of Herbal Drugs

| Sponsored by CAMAG

Most Popular
Register to The Analytical Scientist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Analytical Scientist magazine