Murder? Sir William Blackstone, an 18th-century English judge, is known for writing Commentaries on the…
Believe it or not, super glue is taking over latent fingerprint development, leaving fingerprint powders in the dust. The super glue identification method is becoming the next big thing. The cyanoacrylate fuming method, also referred to as the super glue method, is proven to be an effective tool used by investigators to develop latent fingerprints. The process of super glue fuming involves placing evidence taken from a crime scene such as guns, knives, picture frames, or even guns, into an airtight chamber. Inside the fuming chamber a few drops to a big dollop of cyanoacrylate is heated to release vapors that will react with the traces of amino acids, fatty acids, and proteins in latent fingerprints. Once the reaction occurs, the superglue fumes form a sticky white residue that clings to the ridges of fingerprints turning them into solid three dimensional prints and allowing them to be visualized by investigators or to be dusted and then photographed.
For the process for super glue fuming to occur, the cyanoacrylate must be boiled to achieve its gaseous form. Once in a gaseous state, the fumes will slowly circulate in the chamber and will engulf the room. If any latent fingerprints exist on the object being fumed those prints will be exposed to the gaseous cyanoacrylate triggering a chemical reaction. The reaction can take from 5 minutes to over two hours with the exact time determined by the size of the chamber as well as the concentration of the gaseous cyanoacrylate in the air and the humidity of the environment. Care must be taken with cyanoacrylate fuming because when latent prints are exposed to the super glue fumes for too long they can over develop and lose essential detail.
After the fingerprints are developed using the super glue fuming method they can generally last for years; cyanoacrylate fuming can be used to preserve fingerprints since the glue fumes coat latent prints with a hard surface making them harder to accidentally alter or destroy. Cyanoacrylate fuming also does not preclude DNA testing on items that have been exposed to the fuming process, any blood that has been exposed to cyanoacrylate fumes can still be successfully tested for a DNA profile. Another positive aspect of super glue fuming is that it is not expensive, the only things required for cyanoacrylate fuming are a bottle of super glue, a heat source, and a chamber to enclose the fumes; many departments use plastic bags as chambers when fuming at a crime scene.