The Role of Nanotechnology in Forensic Investigation
Legal Desire|July 16, 2020

The introduction of nanotechnology to forensic has begun in the past few decades and is gradually proving itself as the game changer because it becomes so simple to collect, analyze, and discover the complex nanoparticles and hidden pieces of evidence from the scene of the crime. Nanotechnology works as the catalyst in the speed of evidence analysis in real-time and various aspects of nanotechnology in genetics, medicine, analytical chemistry have been applied to forensic sciences.

Today nanotechnology is contributing valuably in the scientific field.“Generally, it is defined as the study, design, creation, synthesis, manipulation, application of functional materials, devices, and systems through control of matter at the nanometer scale” (E.N.Ganesh, 2016).

Before nano-technology evidence that is critical goes uncollected and without analysis due to the limitations of the instruments but now they can be analyzed with the help of nano-technology and are used to support the investigation. Also, nano-materials assist the collection and detection of evidence which are earlier difficult to acquire during the investigation process. By employing the nono-technology process of collection and analysis of evidence in forensic science can be conducted precisely and accurately operated at the atomic scale.

Materials that are at the nanoscale significantly change their chemical and physical properties rather than at the macro level. Metallic gold is one good example of this, it has a melting point of 1064 oC when at bulk, but nano-particles of gold (between 1.5 to 2nm in diameter) possess a melting point of approximately 300 oC. And many such other examples depict that how important is the nanotechnology in the investigation process.

Nanotechnology also plays an important role in the cases of illicit drug identification, inorganic pigment identification in the cases of hit and run accidents, latent fingerprint development, nerve gas detection, measurement of alcohol in the cases of drink and drive and more other such cases for accurate results and time-bound investigation.

Nanotechnology is free from human biases and increased the speed of investigation with accuracy as a result.

Forensic Nano-technology

Nano-analysis is commonly used in the nanotechnology in forensic investigation. Some of these analyses techniques are Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS), Raman Micro-Spectroscopy (Micro-Raman), Micro X-Ray Fluorescence (MXRF).

Electron microscopy-

The beam of electrons instead of a beam of light is used as a source of illumination to magnify the objects in nano-meters with higher resolution. The generated electrons when focused on the specimen passes through it which results in their scattering depending upon the specimens’ refractive index and produces a high power magnified image.

Micro X-ray Fluorescence (MXRF)

It is a visualization technique that rapidly reveals the composition of an element by irradiating it with a thin beam of X-Ray. It is one of the prominent technology used by a forensic investigator during the examination process to detect the presence of any unrevealed evidence at the scene of crime (Chauhan, Singh, & Tiwari, 2017).

Role of Nanotechnology in Forensic Investigation

Forensic toxicological analysis nanotechnology of gold, silver, and titanium oxide are very useful in the examination of various toxic materials from several forensic evidence like hair, saliva, blood, and a human skeleton. Nano-sensors are used in the screening of various toxicological drugs.

The nano-sensor can be used in the process of immediate spot test and a major substitute for the on-field test. It is low-cost, active, stable, and certain time screening methods for forensic toxicological drug screening. Forensic nanotechnology was effectively applied to real specimens to illuminate the applicability of the nanosensors for toxicological analysis

  • Forensic DNA analysis

Nano-technology proves to be useful for the examination of fragments of the specimen with the help of PCR. For instance, if a single drop of saliva was obtained from the crime scene, for carrying out further analysis PCR will produce sufficient copies of the specimen.

Recent advancement in forensic DNA analysis is Microfluidic devices. The advantages of these devices reduce examination time, the risk of contamination is less and they are directly applicable to the crime scene. Another most important technology is microfluidic chip technology has already proven to be useful and effective within medical applications, such as for point-of-care use

  • Forensic DNA Typing

Copper nano-particles, silica-based magnetic nano-particles, and magnetic nanoparticles are useful for the extraction of quality of PCR ready DNA form the indicative fluids of the body. Magnetic nanoparticles with carboxylic compounds are used in the isolation process of DNA as adsorbents for PCR amplification.

  • Forensic Fingerprint visualization

Certain conventional methods of investigation like the “Smidgen method” (used to reveal the fingerprints), use of fluorescent X-Ray tubes are now being replaced with new scientific techniques of Microbial Forensic, Nano-technology.

Nano-powders have been developed which are used in conjunction with SALDI-TOF2-MS will develop the ginger print and used for detection’

By using the gold nanoparticles, researchers were able to target amino acids on non-porous surfaces, which will allow better analysis of latent fingerprints

Nano‐Fingerprint Residue Visualization: Microscopy: The body creams and sunscreen lotions can be detected by using residual Titanium dioxide or Zinc oxide nano-particles and while the sweat can be detected due to its inorganic components.

  • Latent Prints

Technical advancements in the field have made a task very easy and reliable in the collection process of minute prints form the crime scene without any contamination of evidence. Technology like RUVIS (Reflected Ultra Violet Imaging System) smoothen these complex tasks.

  • Gunshot residue analysis

High-resolution Scanning Electron Microscopy imaging can be used in Gunshot Residue analysis for locating residue particles and for determining the composition their elements X-ray spectrometry is used.

  • Forensic Explosive Detection

Nanomaterials provide the active potential to create sensors for the detection of explosives. To trace the explosives, advanced nano-sensor concept devices like electronic noses, nano-tube, and nano-mechanical devices are used to detect conventional bombs, plastic explosives, and grenades. An electronic nose is usually possessed of a chemical sensing system such as an artificial neural network.

  • Post blast explosive residues analysis

Nano-technology also proved to be helpful in finding and collecting the fragmentations of explosives and in collecting the traces of the explosives residue particles remains at the place of the blast. It can also be used in the detection of non-fragmented explosives.

Conclusion

In the future of forensic investigation, nano-technology will work as a catalyst in delivering more sensitive and selective methods of detection and will also assist in revealing the case having any error in evidence.

Nanotechnology caters great benefits to the field of forensic science. It is very helpful in revealing hidden evidence that can’t be traced without its assistance.

Nanotechnology helps Forensic scientists in proving the credibility of the outcome of their investigation before the court of law.

Scientific investigation is the need of today and nanotechnology is assisting in accomplishing this need.

It is important to note that scientific advancements are taking place at a rapid rate and every day we came across new technology so for a forensic investigator is mandatory to keep him or herself updating with the advancements in the field.

References

B, S. (2016). Research and Reviews: Journal of Pharmaceutics and Nanotechnology. Journal of Pharmaceutics and Nanotechnology , 4 (e-ISSN: 2347-7857).

Chauhan, V., Singh, V., & Tiwari, A. (2017). Applications of Nanotechnology in Forensic Investigation. Int. J. Life. Sci. Scienti. Res., 3(3): 1047-1051 , 1-2.

E.N.Ganesh. (2016). Application of Nanotechnology in Forensic Science. Inernational Journal of Printing, Packaging & Allied Sciences , 4, 5.

Shukla, Pandya, A., & K, R. (2018). New perspective of nanotechnology: role in preventive forensic. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences .

Author:

Aashish Kumar

Intern at Dept. of Forensic Science & Criminal Investigation (June 2020)

Legal Desire Media & Insights

He has done graduation in B.A. in Security Management from Raksha Shakti University, Gujarat. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from Raksha Shakti University. He has done 35 days internship at Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society. He has done 10 days internship at CBI/CFSL Delhi in Forensic Psychology Division. He has presented 2 papers in International Conference on Police Science.

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