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A UD professor is working on the first update to fingerprinting since the 1900s

Partha Banerjee.jpg
Ann Thompson
UD Professor Partha Banerjee in his lab with a laser and a series of reflectors and prisms that will intersect with a fingerprint to make a hologram.

Your fingerprint could appear even more unique if a University of Dayton professor and his Penn State colleague are successful in creating a 3D image. Right now, fingerprints are a 2D photograph.

2D leaves out information like pores, scars and creases.

Director of the University of Dayton’s Holography and Metamaterials Lab Partha Banerjee and Penn State Professor Akhlesh Lakhtakia have been awarded a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

3D would be the first change to fingerprint collection since the early 1900s. To do it, Banerjee will create a hologram.

Here’s how it works

At the crime scene, detectives would coat the fingerprint with a protective layer. That is transported to a lab.

Then a laser light — combined with a series of mirrors and reflectors and prisms — goes through the fingerprint or reflects off it, depending on how it was recorded.

Then a crime lab would take a picture with a camera, just like the one you have on your cell phone, with thousands of pixels. This creates a hologram. For his research, Banerjee gets fingerprints from Penn State. Those fingerprints are deposited on different surfaces and in varying conditions after aging and being left out in the cold.

Banerjee takes them to the Miami Valley Crime Lab. Scientists there grade the quality of the fingerprints before UD makes the holograms.

“3D fingerprinting would certainly narrow down the person more because it’s unique to a certain person,” says Banerjee. “Right now we are probably losing out some information and I do not know if that’s the reason why, sometimes, you see on TV some people are held in prison for many years and then they figure out, OK, that’s not the real offender.”

How soon before this happens?

The Homeland Security grant is for two years. It’s unclear if any government agency or law enforcement department outside of Homeland Security would use the technology initially.

Courts won’t allow the technology until it has been proven.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.