Simona Francese delivers a TED talk on fingerprints that highlights the spectacular properties of this humane feature and shares cutting-edge technology that has been developed to assist in police investigations. The speaker is an analytical chemist and a Professor of Forensic and Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. After extensive research, as of 2017, her team has been able to develop a software that has immense value in identifying criminals.
Simona Francese views the fingerprint as an entire world of information. Comprised out of three types of molecules — sweat molecules, molecules that are introduced to the body, and molecules that contaminate the body, the fingerprint is essentially a storyteller.
While in the past, it was hard to make an arrest based on faint or overlapping fingerprints, recent technological advancements make this possible. Simona Francese displays this by conducting her TED talk on fingerprints as a case study. She engages the audience and successfully displays how mass spectrometry imaging technology can be extremely useful in analyzing data.
A UV laser is fired at an overlapping print. The scientist can cause the desorption of the molecules, contained in the print and the mass spectrometer captures them, measuring their weight and identifying who the molecules are. For example, it can determine whether the molecule is from a condom or indicate a very special molecule that can only form from drinking alcohol and consuming cocaine simultaneously. By further manipulating the software, Simona Francese reveals that the technology can separate overlapping prints and superimpose a singular print over and over until a "rich pattern of continuity and clarity is achieved."
By piling up evidence in this manner, the talk on fingerprints presents the mass spectrometry imaging technology as a valuable resource for police investigations.