The researchers will then coat the fingerprint with a very thin layer of metal, chosen to best suit the underlying material, in a method developed by Lakhtakia and his collaborators in earlier research. This metal layer will preserve the fingerprint pattern so it will withstand the energy from an optical laser scan. The scan will allow the researchers to construct a 3D digital hologram of the fingerprint pattern.
“Holography enables us to examine an object from different view angles, which can’t be done with a 2D fingerprint,” Lakhtakia said. “We aim to develop the prints so that a fingerprint examiner can make a better determination.”
Lakhtakia and his collaborators will work with the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, to establish an evaluation scale for the 3D holograms similar to the 8- to 12-point identification standards for 2D fingerprint images. Since fingerprint identification must be verified by an examiner to be used as evidence, Lakhtakia said, creating a grading scale is essential to helping examiners make the right match.
Lakhtakia aims for the research to advance forensic science technology, as well as other fields.
“Identifying fingerprints has implications for more than catching perpetrators,” he said. “It’s also important for biometrics, background checks and more. It’s important to improve the various processes that require the identification of actors beyond the criminal justice system.”