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CBRNE Forensics: Chemical Fingerprint Imaging System

The CFIS is to be designed to detect and identify trace dangerous materials collocated within fingerprints.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is supporting development of a first of its kind Chemical Fingerprint Imaging System (CFIS).

The organization recently awarded a contract to ChemImage Sensor Systems to design and build two CFIS prototypes by April 2016, for detection and identification of trace dangerous materials collocated within fingerprints.

A device such as this would fill a critical forensics gap in fixed and portable laboratory detection technology as there is currently no standalone equipment that can both detect and identify chemical materials and collect latent fingerprints.

ChemImage plans to utilize its unique optical technology capability as one of the main components of the system.

ECBC began investigating the concepts being envisioned within CFIS in 2010 as a part of the Army Technology Objective (ATO). The project began shortly after Augustus W. Fountain III, Ph.D, ECBC Senior Research Scientist for Chemistry and CFIS Program Lead, returned to the U.S. after serving in Iraq as the CEXC Chief Scientist. While in Iraq, Fountain worked closely with Counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) programs, and saw the need for better methods to identify and detect the presence of any illicit material in the field.

Through the ATO and follow-up funding, ECBC collaborated with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) located at Fort Gillem, Ga. to begin research. The key to this type of chemical identification was to not only be able to get a Biometric match of the chemical image, but also to be able to identify chemicals collocated in a fingerprint to unambiguously identify that a bad actor had been building a bomb or handling illicit materials such as drugs, explosives or any chemicals of interest.

ECBC and USACIL team published several peer-reviewed Journal articles on their findings on fingerprint imaging and chemical identification.

ECBC advertised a Request for Proposals to design and build a prototype of the CFIS in 2014 after nearly four years of Army funded research, establishing unique government owned intellectual capital based on imaging fingerprint algorithms that can identify chemical materials within a latent fingerprint.

“We had done a lot of upfront work on this– we conducted research on chemical imaging, published papers on our findings in peer review journals,” said Fountain.

“We had taken the concept as far as we could within the lab, but in order to develop this technology into something that could be a real difference maker in the field, we needed to find the right place that could design and build a standalone instrument.”

The ideal standalone instrument will integrate imaging, optics and fingerprinting together and build it into a size and package that could be amenable to the Common Analytical Lab System (CALS), the Joint Expeditionary Forensic Labs, or a mobile field lab. After putting out the RFP, ChemImage Sensor Systems proved to be best company for this task. After developing a successful design concept ChemImage has been granted an option to fabricate two CFIS prototypes. At the successful conclusion of the option, ECBC will receive the prototypes and begin testing them.

“We look forward to receiving and testing the CFIS prototypes,” Fountain said. “With ChemImage’s optics and detection systems expertise, we can see this concept become something we can hold and test, and eventually be transitioned into the hands of our law enforcement and warfighters.”

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