Navigation Links
Guilt on their hands: tiny 'tags' could help to solve and deter gun crime

Criminals who use firearms may find it much harder to evade justice in future, thanks to an ingenious new bullet tagging technology developed in the UK.

The tiny tags just 30 microns* in diameter and invisible to the naked eye are designed to be coated onto gun cartridges. They then attach themselves to the hands or gloves of anyone handling the cartridge and are very difficult to wash off completely.

Crucially, some of these 'nanotags' also remain on the cartridge even after it has been fired. This should make it possible to establish a robust forensic link between a cartridge fired during a crime and whoever handled it.

To date it has been extremely hard to establish such a link because of the difficulty in retrieving fingerprints or significant amounts of DNA from cartridge surfaces, which are shiny and smooth. The nanotags, which are quite unlike anything previously used in the fight against gun crime, could therefore lead to a significant increase in successful convictions.

This breakthrough has been achieved by a team of chemists, engineers, management scientists, sociologists and nanotechnologists from Brighton, Brunel, Cranfield, Surrey and York Universities, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

"The tags primarily consist of naturally-occurring pollen, a substance that evolution has provided with extraordinary adhesive properties," says Professor Paul Sermon from the University of Surrey, who has led the research. "It has been given a unique chemical signature by coating it with titanium oxide, zirconia, silica or a mixture of other oxides. The precise composition of this coating can be varied subtly from one batch of cartridges to another, enabling a firm connection to be made between a particular fired cartridge and its user."

In addition to this breakthrough, the team has also developed a method of trapping forensically-useful amounts of DNA on gun cartridges. It involves increasing the abrasive character of the cartridge case with micro-patterned pyramid textures, or adding an abrasive grit, held in place by a thin layer of resin, to the cartridge base. This rough surface is able to retain dead skin cells from a thumb as it loads a cartridge into a firearm. A key benefit is also the affordability a cost-effective way of reliably capturing sufficient DNA from a gun cartridge has never been available before. The technology has been designed to avoid damage to the DNA captured which is caused (i) by temperatures generated as the gun is fired, when heat is rapidly transferred from the burning propellant into the cartridge case and (ii) when copper is extracted from the cartridge case by lactic acid in sweat.

The nanotag and DNA capture technologies could potentially be available for use within as little as 12 months. There may also be scope to apply them in other fields, such as knife crime, in future.

"We're currently focusing on understanding the precise requirements of the police and cartridge manufacturers," comments Professor Sermon. "But our work clearly could make a valuable contribution not only to solving gun crime but also to deterring criminals from resorting to the use of firearms in the first place."


Contact: Natasha Richardson
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Related biology news :

1. Male fish deceive rivals about their top mate choice
2. Syracuse University scientists discover how some bacteria may steal iron from their human hosts
3. Ultrasonic frogs can tune their ears to different frequencies
4. Pregnant mice block out unwelcome admirers to protect their pups
5. Researchers catch ion channels in their opening act
6. Children born after donor insemination should be told as soon as possible about their conception
7. New antibiotic beats superbugs at their own game
8. Salk researchers reprogram adult stem cells in their natural environment
9. High hormone levels in seabird chicks prepare them to kill their siblings
10. Thinking ahead: Bacteria anticipate coming changes in their environment
11. From Canada to the Caribbean: Tree leaves control their own temperature, Penn study reveals
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/7/2015)... , October 8, 2015 --> ... for Fingerprint Cards (FPC) during third quarter 2015 amounted to ... of around 860 MSEK that was communicated 20 August 2015. ... further strengthened delivery capacity and a continued growing demand for ... is estimated to be higher than during the third quarter. ...
(Date:10/6/2015)... SAN MATEO, Calif. , Oct. 6, 2015 ... software company, today announced enhancements to its software ... gene expression analysis kit for differential expression in ... Analytic Platform, which is a cloud-based genomic analysis ... to advance scientific discovery from next-generation sequencing efforts. ...
(Date:10/1/2015)... , Oct. 1, 2015  Biometrics includes ... analysing human body characteristics, such as fingerprints, eye ... purposes. Adoption of biometrics technology has been constantly ... the last five years. In addition to the ... is fingerprint recognition, other means of biometric authentication ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/13/2015)... PARK, N.J. and SAN DIEGO ... (BASF) and Mast Therapeutics, Inc. have agreed to collaborate ...  Currently, excipient-grade poloxamer 188 NF, marketed by BASF under ... used in a variety of pharmaceutical and biological applications, ... Poloxamer 188 is the starting material for Mast,s lead ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... , Oct. 13, 2015  Generex Biotechnology Corporation ( ... a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with MediTemp Ltd. (MediTemp) ... a proprietary cooling technology designed to improve sperm quality in ... United States and three million men in ... 44 diagnosed as infertile.  For 42% of those men, the ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... ... , ... Proove Biosciences, a commercial and research leader ... Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) Pain Center to ... Research Clinical Objectives Linking Genotypic and Phenotypic Association with Pain Outcomes) is one ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... ... October 12, 2015 , ... Spirax Sarco, the leader in products ... CSM-C 600 compact clean steam generator . This unit is a skid ... of HTM2031, HTM2010, and EN285 standards. The CMS-C 600 generator can produce up ...
Breaking Biology Technology: