A new suspect identification technique is about to be used by police officers worldwide and help them identify a criminal in under one minute and it implies sweat. Crime suspects are “at risk”.
The fingerprints technique has been used for over a century by police officers in identifying crime suspects. Several years ago, the DNA was also taken into account in such situations. However, more often than not, there are cases of fingerprints that get either hidden or smugged, thus making the investigation more difficult than it already is. This is where the sweat comes to our attention.
What’s to know about sweat… except that it’s smelly and sticky
An inch of skin contains nearly 650 sweat glands on average. This means that we leave small amounts of sweat on basically every item we touch starting from our phones to our laptops, to glasses of water and so on. According to specialists, these incredibly small skin secretions can prove to be incredibly useful in crime investigations.
Jan Halámek is the one that initiated the process of making this procedure recognized by the authorities.
Halámek works as an assistant professor of Chemistry at the University of Albany and has recently published a new paper in a popular science magazine called Analytical Chemistry. In this paper, he discusses about the possibility of analyzing sweat encountered at a crime scene in order to identify the number of people that were there. The great news is that this analysis can be utilized on site and provide results right away.
The proven efficiency of sweat investigation technique
“We are looking at two concepts in this paper. First, that each of our skin secretions are different and, therefore, unique to us. Like a fingerprint. Also, we are continuously secreting sweat throughout the day that is being deposited in small amounts as we travel and touch various objects.” Halámek also added that “by combining these concepts, we were able to show that, statistically, sweat left behind at a crime scene can help forensic investigators.”
In order to prove this theory, Halámek and his team took sweat samples from 25 volunteers and created other 25 mimicked sweat samples. The result of this test revealed that it was extremely easy to distinguish between all 50 samples.
The next step in this process is to test its efficiency using samples taken from real crime scenes.
The challenges of this technique
According to Halámek, this analysis isn’t currently able to match sweat samples with specific individuals. The reason is that metabolites tend to change over time due to the lifestyle choices that individuals make. For example, metabolite levels can fluctuate when an individual starts a diet plan or exercises, while in other cases, these levels vary when an individual gets sick. Worth mentioning is that these fluctuations are now monitored and Halámek’s team is trying to identify a pattern.
The long-term objective is to create a “sweat profile” database.
About the paper
The first author of this paper was a graduate student from the University of Albany, Mindy Hair. Also, other co-authors of the paper include graduate student Erica Brunelle, as well as senior Adrianna Mathis. The research was funded by the National Institute of Justice.
According to the notes made by U Albany, Halámek and his team also worked on developing an authentication approach that is also sweat-based and that is intended for unlocking wearable and mobile devices.