Advanced microscope to boost crime scene investigations

AUAS Forensic Science research group participates in European research project

10 Oct 2019 11:17 | Centre for Applied Research Technology

Researchers from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) are involved in the development of a toolkit with an advanced microscope. This will enable forensic investigators to carry out more detailed investigations into traces from crime scenes. The AUAS is developing the education programme that will enable researchers to work with the device in a uniform manner. This is thanks to the European SHUTTLE research project in which the AUAS participates.

The automated microscope to be developed will be able to examine numerous microtraces in a short period of time. Microtraces are small remnants of things like fibres from fabrics such as clothing or curtains. Other examples of microtraces are paint particles or glass splinters, “An important advantage of such a device is that it objectively analyses traces and categorises them,” says Iris Bijker, AUAS representative in the project, “because what one researcher sees as a purple fibre, might be regarded as a magenta fibre by another researcher. This could have consequences for finding connections between traces.”

Trace collection and analysis

Now traces are collected from crime scenes by means of tapes. These are a kind of transparent plaster to which microtraces adhere. The forensic investigator then manually examines the entire tape with a microscope, in search of usable traces. Bijker: “Sometimes there are a couple of tapes, but often there are a lot of them, for example from a whole car seat. That takes a lot of time.”

The new microscope will be able to examine the tapes automatically and photograph them. These will be processed using algorithms, categorised by type and added to a database. From that moment on, stored traces can be compared with other traces worldwide, making it possible to discover connections.

Development of a super microscope

The development of such a smart, automatic microscope requires specific technological expertise. The project team is looking for companies that can do this. The exact requirements and preconditions can be found on the SHUTTLE website.

SHUTTLE graduation project

In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the AUAS participate in the study. Lecturer-researchers from the Forensic Science research group are developing an education programme to enable users worldwide to work with the device in a uniform manner. In addition, AUAS students can do internships and complete their studies in the SHUTTLE project.