Though Guido Verbeck has had a hand in developing a number of innovative lab devices, one in particular has prompted a high degree of interest lately – perhaps because it sounds like something right out of TV Land.
“There’s definitely a CSI quality to the forensics device I’ve developed,” says Verbeck, an associate chemistry professor at the University of North Texas. “For one thing it’s my latest project, and for another people associate its use with some of what they’ve seen on television.”
Verbeck has developed an ultra-portable piece of lab equipment he calls a nanomanipulator, which soldiers in the wars on drugs and terror will use in forensic analysis. Without destroying a piece of evidence — like a fingerprint — Verbeck’s device can detect and analyze chemicals present on a nano scale.
What that means is that a soldier can use one of Verbeck’s devices, which are about the size of a DVD player, to find out much more from a fingerprint than who left it. He says certain chemical indicators present on a print or other sample could positively link someone to activities such as bomb making or narcotics production.
“This research can have an immediate impact for military investigations and the war fighter,” Verbeck says. “The analysis of trace residue of illicit chemistry within biometric data — fingerprints, electrostatic lifts — could pinpoint potential threats, and lead to acceptable conflict resolution.
"Chemical signature data from extracted residue can offer another avenue to group and characterize persons," he says. "The majority of illicit drugs and other illicit chemistries, because they’re made in less than reproducible conditions, offer chemical signatures, or impurities in development, pointing to variations in manufacturing that could be acquired using this method, thus linking group and distribution chains together from the chemical fingerprint of the sample."
Investigators currently have access to similar technology, but Verbeck says his device is unique in that it offers more precise analysis and portability. Soldiers will be able to perform analyses in field laboratories, as opposed to permanent labs, and move along investigations at a quicker pace. With that flexibility, locating and detaining suspects on the run becomes easier.
The U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and Zyvex Instruments of Richardson have all supported Verbeck’s research through contracts or grants. Verbeck says his device will ship out with U.S. troops beginning summer 2013.
Visit Guido Verbeck’s website to learn more about his research.
This article originally appeared as "Forensics at Your Fingertips" in The Texas Economy. You can read the original at the following link: http://www.thetexaseconomy.org/business-industry/business-development/articles/article.php?name=forensics