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Sweaty Hands? New Fingerprinting Method Takes Pore Prints

sweat pore fingerprinting
Sweat pore imaging on a fingertip with a hydrochromic sensor film. (Image credit: Kim et al)

Criminals might not get away so easily, thanks to a new fingerprinting method that may be faster and more reliable than traditional methods, researchers say.

The method images the sweat pores in a human hand using a polymer that glows fluorescent and changes color when it comes in contact with tiny droplets of water. Only a small fraction of the fingerprint is needed to identify an individual, according to the new study.

"The sensor technology developed in this study has the potential of serving as a new method for fingerprint analysis and for the clinical diagnosis of malfunctioning sweat pores," the researchers wrote in the study, detailed today (April 29) in the journal Nature Communications. [5 Crazy Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]

The idea of using sweat pores for fingerprinting isn't new, but this is the first time that fast, reliable and cheap methods have been available.

A team led by Jong-Man Kim, a chemical engineer at Hanyang University in South Korea, developed a new fingerprinting method that uses a simple color-changing polymer that can be deposited using an ink-jet printer. When a fingertip is pressed against it, the polymer changes color from blue to red and glows in the places where it comes into contact with sweat, producing a dotted pattern that constitutes a unique fingerprint.

Traditional fingerprinting, which captures the characteristic ridge patterns on the fingertip, requires a large area to produce a reliable print and is prone to error. In contrast, the sweat-pore method requires only a small fraction of the fingertip to match it to its owner and is more reliable, researchers said.

The new method could also be used to diagnose sweat-pore disorders, because it can distinguish functioning pores from nonfunctioning ones.

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Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.