Improved detection of forensic evidence by combining narrow band photographic images taken at a range of wavelengths is dependent on the substance of interest having a significantly different spectrum from the underlying substrate. While some natural substances such as blood have distinctive spectral features which are readily distinguished from common colorants, this is not true for visualization agents commonly used in forensic science. We now show that it is possible to select reagents with narrow spectral features that lead to increased visibility using digital cameras and computer image enhancement programs even if their coloration is much less intense to the unaided eye than traditional reagents. The concept is illustrated by visualising latent fingermarks on paper with the zinc complex of Ruhemann's Purple, cyanoacrylate-fumed fingerprints with Eu(tta)3(phen), and soil prints with 2,6-bis(benzimidazol-2-yl)-4-[4′-(dimethylamino)phenyl]pyridine [BBIDMAPP]. In each case background correction is performed at one or two wavelengths bracketing the narrow absorption or emission band of these compounds. However, compounds with sharp spectral features would also lead to improved detection using more advanced algorithms such as principal component analysis. © 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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