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The History of Fingerprint Powder

By: Hilary Rodela, Lead Digital Content Writer for Taction USA


Fingerprint powder is a substance every CSI knows about, but where did it come from? It was first used in the 19th century in countries such as Argentina, South America, and Germany.


The next notated mark in fingerprint powder history was in 1920. This appears to be the point in time when powder was further developed and enhanced. At the time, the powder was comprised of several different compounds including chalk, graphite, lead and mercury. However, it was soon realized that lead and mercury were not safe to use, so those were factored out of the powders’ composition.


Today, fingerprint powder is primarily carbon-based. Consistency, particle shape, and adhesion, are all factored into the development of fingerprint powder. This of course is all in reference to traditional, granular powder, such as amido black.


The make up of other powders such as fluorescents, is comprised of a mixture of both magnetic powder and granular such traditional fingerprint powder.


Magnetic powder was first developed in 1962. Though granular as well, it has iron particles in the mix to give the magnetic effect. Magnetic powder is a great latent fingerprint enhancer without the mess of traditional powders.


However, there is no replacement for the traditional powder that has been used since the 1920s. Modern times have simply made the powder safer for users while maintaining the effectiveness.



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