OF SUP E R GLUE FUMING by nyut545e2


     OF SUPERGLUE FUMING                                Written by Gary Gulick
                                                  from being damaged in any way—by

             YANOACRYLATE ESTER                                                             to the crime lab. They found that they
             has been around for a long time      dusting, by handling, by improper         had a 200-percent increase in viewable
             and almost everyone involved in      packaging, or by transportation. In my    prints by fuming everything before it
     crime-scene investigation has either used    opinion, superglue is one of the best     was shipped.”
     it or at least heard about it. Superglue     mediums we have to preserve prints            Olenik said that particular study was
     fuming is now a part of the workday          so they can be properly processed and     reported by David Perkins and William
     life. It started out as a relatively small   recorded by powders, dyes, or photog-     Thomas in the Journal of Forensic
     and simple technique that helped make        raphy. Latent fingerprints are fragile.   Identifi c a t i o n, Vol. 41, No. 3, 1991.
     latent fingerprints visible. But superglue   We need to protect them.”                 The data captured by the study showed
     fuming has grown and evolved into a                                                    that 3.29 latent prints were developed
     number of complex methodologies,                 You are going to see                  per case when the evidence was fumed
     each with its own set of pros and cons.       more of superglue fuming                 in the field compared with 1.06 prints
          John Olenik is a well-known latent-                                               for evidence not fumed in the field.
     fingerprint specialist who retired a few         in the future because                     Olenik pointed out that some items
     years ago from the Ohio Bureau of                                                      will be fumed properly and there will
     Criminal Identification and Investigation           more techniques                    be white ridges that are easily visible.
     after more than 27 years of crime-lab                                                  Other times, even though the items are
     experience. Olenik has experimented
                                                      are being developed                   properly fumed, you may not see any
     extensively with superglue fuming and         all the time to enhance it.              ridges. But the latent prints are still
     has even developed several successful                                                  fixed. “Once they are fixed, they can
     products that are related in one way or            E v e ry few months,                be enhanced, either by using special
     another to the technique. In his spare                                                 fingerprint powders or with special
     time, he also conducts workshops on            someone comes up with                   dye-staining techniques.”
     superglue fuming. When asked to pro-         new dyes or new techniques.                   Some faint prints may not even be
     vide an evaluation of superglue fuming,                                                made visible with powders because
     Olenik was enthusiastically positive.            S u p e rglue has been gaining more   there is not enough print residue to
         “Superglue has been available to the     importance in recent years, even at the   hold the powder. When this occurs, dyes
     forensic community for more than 20          crime scene itself. Ten years ago, you    and special photographic techniques
     years,” Olenik said. “And the police         would seldom see a CSI unit fuming        are the only ways to view these very
     departments are finding that it’s even       with superglue in the field. But today,   faint prints. “Unfortunately, you can
     more important now than it was years         that action is a more common sight.       even lose this opportunity if you over-
     ago. No other process has been found         M a ny departments, said Olenik, are      fume the faint prints with superglue.
     to replace it. Nothing.”                     superglue fuming right at the crime       The fumes will coat both the surface
         But Olenik also observed that in         scene, instead of packaging the raw,      of the prints and the background—
     recent years he has become convinced         potential evidence and transporting it    and they will become totally obscured,
     that most departments are not properly       back to the lab for processing later.     eliminating any possibility of ever
     using superglue fuming.                          “At one time,” he said, “superglue    capturing these faint prints.”
         “I think some of the departments         fuming was just a process that we             Olenik’s concerns that superglue-
     tend to over-fume their items because        used for most-difficult surfaces. But     fuming may be either under-utilized
     they are expecting to see dense, white       we’ve found out that we can lose a lot    or improperly used has led him to turn
     ridges,” he said. “And as a result, there    of fingerprint evidence unless we can     his retirement years into an unrelenting
     are a lot of faint prints that may be on     somehow protect it during the move        schedule of educational opportunities.
     the surface that they will never be able     back to the lab. The U.S. Army Crime          “This is what I do,” said Olenik. “I
     to bring up anymore because they have        Laboratory discovered the same thing      conduct superglue workshops in which
     been lost during the fuming process.”        quite a few years ago. It seems they      I teach the various methods of super-
          According to Olenik, the primary        were receiving evidence from all over     glue fuming that are out there. There
     purpose of superglue fuming should           the world and some of it was being        is no single technique that I consider
     really be to preserve the fingerprint        damaged. What they did was require        the best. I show people how to fume
     evidence. “Your first objective should                                     tors
                                                  all of their CID inve s t i ga to fume    at a crime scene and in a laboratory
     be to prevent the fingerprint evidence       everything before it was shipped back     environment and for different types of

14                                                      Evidence Technology Magazine • March-April 2005
                  S U P E R G L U E                                                F U M I N G
 applications. I even show them how to
 do superglue-fuming in large, high-
 volume areas where they might have to
                                                 NINE THINGS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW
 erect a tent or a big sheet of plastic over    ABOUT SUPERGLUE (CYANOACRYLATE ESTER)
 a potential source of evidence. It is not
 unusual for an investigative team to want
 to fume a large object, such as a car.”
                                                1 Thiswould marks its 63rdgunsightssdestined for battlefieldinto ainspecialpeopler
                                                         year                                The
                                                                              annive r a r y— basic formula that most
                                                    know as superglue was developed in 1942 during research
                                                tic that      be suitable for                                use World Wa
      When asked if the technology of           II. But the stuff stuck to everything it touched and was not useable. Six years later,
 superglue fuming will continue to grow         they tried again to use it—this time for airplane canopies. Nope.
 and improve in future years, Olenik
                                                     Success the third time aro u n d—      Since the stuff was so remarkably sticky,
 said it probably would—if for no other
 reason than the fact that many crime-          2    fast-drying, and stubborn, the researchers decided to try selling it as an adhesive.
                                                Kodak introduced it to the market as “Eastman 910” in 1958.
 scene units are not fully utilizing the
 potential of the technique.                                                          The
                                                     The inventor of superg l u e— scientist who did all of that research back in
      “A lot of times, they are trying to do
 the fuming process without having the
                                                3    1942 was Dr. Harry W. Coover. At the time, Dr. Coover was employed by
                                                Eastman Chemical. Last year, Dr. Coover was inducted into the National Inventors
 right environmental conditions,” Olenik        Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, joining such prestigious inventors as Thomas Edison,
 said. “Consequently, they tend to miss         Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Samuel Morse, and George Eastman.
 a lot of evidence. If you study some of             A very versatile adhesive—From the very beginning, the cyanoacrylate ester
 the literature on the subject, you will
 find that there are certain optimum
                                                4    adhesive was a popular product among homeowners. It bonds almost anything
                                                to almost anything else. But in 1966, a specially trained surgical team tested super-
 conditions that are necessary for good         glue as a temporary bonding agent for battlefield wounds suffered by servicemen
 development of the latent prints.              in Vietnam. Today, cyanoacrylates are used for closing surgical incisions and other
      “One of the optimum conditions is         medical treatments. There is even a form of the glue being used in veterinary medicine.
 temperature: It should be about 75°F.
                                                     Hazards of superglue compounds—Before you use any kind of superglue
      “Another condition is the humidity
 level: It should be relatively high in         5    for any purpose, it would be a good idea to read the label for possible hazards.
                                                A common superglue adhesive purchased at the supermarket lists the following:
 order to get the best results.
      “Finally—and I hope I’m not over-         “May be harmful if inhaled. Liquid or vapor may cause irritation of nose,
 emphasizing this—you need to be very           throat, and lungs. Bonds skin instantly. Causes irritation. Bonds eyelids
 careful that you do not over-fume it.”         instantly. Causes irritation.” When heated for forensic purposes, other hazards
      As far as the future of superglue         could develop. Read the label and use proper personal-protective equipment.
 fuming is concerned, Olenik is certain              How to un-glue superg l u e—      Cyanoacrylate sets up in less than a minute and
 that there will be some major advances
 in the next few years.
                                                6    reaches its full strength in about two hours. Hardly anything can bother it. But
                                                acetone—a common ingredient of fingernail-polish remover—can soften dried
      “You’re going to see more of super-       s u p e rglue. Here’s another tip: Cold temperatures can cause superglue to
 glue fuming down the road. Consider            become brittle—so you might try putting that mistakenly glued-together object
 this fact: There has been no technique         in your freezer for a few hours and then see if you can separate the parts.
 developed so far that can even come                                                         Ed
                                                     Superglue’s entry into fore n s i c s— German, a latent-print examiner with
 close to replacing it. Instead, there are
 more techniques being developed all the
                                                7    U.S. Army Crime Laboratory, relates the early history of superglue fuming for
                                                latent prints at one of the pages on his website: www.onin.com/fp/cyanoho.html.
 time to enhance it. Every few months,          It’s an interesting story: In May 1977, trace-evidence examiner Fuseo Matsumura
 someone comes up with new dyes or              at the Saga Prefectural Crime Laboratory of the National Police Agency of Japan
 new dyeing techniques.                         happened to discover that superglue can make fingerprints visible. About four
      “Years ago, for example, they came        months later, Ed German and Paul Norkus of the U.S. Army Crime Laboratory in
 up with laser dyes only to find that they      Japan brought the idea of the superglue technique into the forensic community
 couldn’t be used on latent prints because      of the U.S. Five years later, superglue was being sold as a forensic product.
 the solvents that carried the dye would
                                                     How superglue works on latent prints—The magic is done by the fumes of
 d i s s o l vethe fingerprint residue. Then,
 they discovered that superglue fixed the
                                                8    the superglue. When the fumes come into contact with a latent-fingerprint
                                                deposit, the vapor selectively polymerizes on the fingerprint ridges by reacting
 print, while enabling the dyes to adhere
                                                with water and other components of the print. The residue will often result in white
 to the print residue better. The result:
                                                ridges that are quite visible. Sometimes, however, the post-fuming evidence must
 A higher yield of latent fingerprints.
                                                be processed with special lights, photography, powders, or dyes.
 Things just keep getting better!” H     HH
                                                     The reference material is out there—Before you get too involved with
 For background information about John          9    superglue fuming, it’s a good idea to do your homework. The professional jour-
                                                nals are good sources. The Internet is full of good reference material—and the ve n-
 Olenik and his favorite topic— u p e rglue
 fuming—you can visit his website:              dors of superglue-fuming products will also be more than happy to help.

Evidence Technology Magazine • March-April 2005                                                                                             15

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