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A New Technology To Help Solve Rape Cases

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

To help solve sexual assault cases, researchers have developed a new forensic technology that will identify condom residue in a fingerprint. Alert SVU.

Of course, not all rapists use condoms, but many do in order to avoid leaving DNA evidence or even protect themselves against STDs, and the study out of Sheffield Hallam University indicates that using condoms is actually on the rise. The condom is often disposed of, of course, but can leave a trace behind on one's fingerprint. Researchers have just figured out how to identify it. (Have we been watching too much television or does this seem like something that should have already existed?) Here's how it works.

The process utilizes MALDI-MSI, or matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging – this allows for the analysis of fragile molecules, that fragment when subjected to more conventional ionization techniques. The Sheffield team previously researched the use of this same technology for mapping fingerprint ridge patterns.


They were able to identify lubricant residue that was a few weeks old. Of course, that would probably complicate a case, since a suspect could plausibly have handled a condom on another occasion since then. Still, researchers are hoping to make it more precise — down to the brand or manufacturer.

Forensic Tech Would Link Sex Offenders To Condoms [Gizmag]
New Technique to Help Catch Sexual Offenders [Science Daily]

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I was about to ask if the composition of a condom is that different from that of a latex glove or something similar, but if they're talking about getting it fine-tuned enough to talk about distinguishing brand or manufacturer I guess they might be able to tell the difference.