Dr Melanie Webb from the Surrey Ion Beam Centre at the University of Surrey will be giving a presentation on security and crime prevention using nanotechnology at the Royal Society conference on 17 January.
Security issues today are many. They include protecting citizens and state from organised crime, detecting unsolved crimes and preventing terrorist acts. In many cases, forensic evidence is key to obtaining a conviction and often only very small quantities of forensic material are found on a suspect. For example, Barry George, who was convicted of the murder of the television presenter Jill Dando, was found with only two particles of gunshot residue in his coat pocket.
Nanotechnologies play an important role in addressing current concerns and Dr Webb will discuss 'Trace Element Detection by Ion Beam Analysis'. Ion beam analysis is a group of techniques which can be used to study forensic materials. Some ion beam analysis has been carried out in the USA of forensic materials but very little has been done in the UK so far. Dr Webb's presentation will highlight the techniques currently available, with a series of examples of how they can be applied to solve research problems in forensic science. In particular, the technique can be used to identify forensic specimens such as gunshot residues, explosives residues, fingerprints, soils and inks, with the ultimate aim of linking a suspect to a scene of a crime by comparing the elemental composition of forensic material found on the suspect to the composition of forensic material at the crime scene.
Building on the success of the previous conference on the theme of crime prevention and detection, this one day event will provide an essential update on new scientific developments in the fight against crime, based on nanotechnologies.
Dr Webb comments: "Ion beam analysis provides great promise for the study of forensic materials. This is because in forensic investigations it is absolutely essential to analyse the samples in such a way that they are not destroyed. The ion beam analysis procedure does not destroy specimens. It is also essential to get as much information out of the samples as possible.
Ion beam analysis has a very high sensitivity to trace quantities of most elements in the periodic table compared with other non destructive techniques. This means that we will be able to get more information from forensic samples than we were previously able to."