Latent Fingerprint Technology

A collaboration between the Home Office, Dstl, Loughborough University, Ploughshare, and Foster+Freeman has delivered a unique solution to assist with national and international law enforcement and security. Forensics teams globally will benefit from the ability to recover fingerprints from “impossible” surfaces, in turn resulting in more criminals facing justice.




Fingerprint technology that can recover fingermarks from ‘impossible’ surfaces



Evidence gathering



Greater conviction rates
Fewer criminals on the streets
Peace of mind for families of victims of crime

Whether it’s used on a foreign battlefield or a British crime scene, this pioneering fingerprint technology will make it much harder for criminals to escape justice.

Harriett Baldwin MP,
former Minister for Defence Procurement


The story

The new method, known as the Latent Fingerprint Technique (LFT), began as a serendipitous discovery by scientists at Loughborough University in 2007. While working on an academic study in inorganic chemistry, they noticed that some glassware that had been left overnight and exposed to the process they were using had developed a fingermark.

Forensic science, murder weapon and criminal investigation concept theme with detective wearing latex gloves bagging gun to send to lab in a dark crime scene illuminated by red and blue cop car lights

Aware that other academics had been investigating new techniques to develop fingerprints they realised there might be interest in this new method but were unaware at this point just how groundbreaking their discovery was.

Their discovery means fingerprints can now be recovered from surfaces that were previously extremely challenging or impossible to work with. This includes items exposed to high temperatures, including Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components and used ammunition cases as well as metal items that have been deliberately cleaned, such as knives. The new technique can help identify those responsible for IED attacks, or in domestic crime scenes, where around 80% of knife crimes in the UK go unsolved.

The early development of LFT was a collaboration between Loughborough University, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), and the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) – now part of Dstl. Together, over eight years, their combined efforts turned the LFT technology into a viable demonstrator.

To turn the successful laboratory demonstrator into a commercially available product, however, required the expertise of an industry partner. In 2017 Ploughshare signed a deal with Foster+Freeman to grant them access to the technology. As a leading forensic science equipment supplier to more than 150 countries, they were an ideal partner to take LFT and turn it into a successful product.

LFT is a fantastic example of collaborative working between academia, government and industry to develop an innovation that will help the police and security services to identify criminals and link them to their crimes.

recover latent


LFT is a fuming process. A pre-cursor powder is heated and then allowed to degrade into a crystallised form in a chamber containing the object under analysis. This crystallised form is then re-evaporated, creating fumes around the object which then condense to develop fingerprints on the sample.

Unlike other techniques, LFT does not require the presence of sweat or naturally occurring skin oils to develop a fingerprint. Its unique chemical vapour process reveals fingerprints that would previously have been deemed impossible, making it of immense benefit to investigators seeking to review both new and cold case evidence.


  • Recover fingerprints on metals exposed to extreme temperatures such as fired ammunition cases or vehicles that have been set on fire.
  • Develops fingerprints on metal/alloy surfaces, including corroded surfaces such as knives that have been thrown into water, as well as surfaces that have been deliberately washed.
  • Results can be achieved in as little as 30 minutes.


Innovation source: Loughborough University/Dstl
Licensed to: Foster + Freeman
Forensic evidence collection
End user: Governments, Police



Discovered by scientists at Loughborough University


Licensed to Foster+Freeman


RECOVER LFT product enters market