New dye could help police fight crime

New dye could help police fight crime

0710_next01Rob Strongin’s work developing chemically complex dyes has led him from cancer to crime. Strongin, a professor of chemistry at Portland State University, made the transition after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department asked him to develop a dye that could make fingerprints on bloody surfaces show up more clearly. Dyes used by forensic teams are sometimes ineffective, depending upon what surface the fingerprint is on, and the surface’s color. Strongin received funding from the National Institute of Justice and worked on the project from October 2007 through 2009. He created a new dye made from the chemical compounds of three different ones. Enzymes in blood chemically react to color in the dye. “You really don’t see much dye unless there are bloody fingerprints,” Strongin says. He tested the dye using pig’s blood on numerous surfaces, including black cardboard. The results pleased Strongin. Fingerprints show up so sharply you can see skin pores. “They work in the most difficult of environments,” Strongin says. The dyes are patented, but the project lost momentum when Strongin’s Orange County collaborator retired. Strongin is seeking a new partner to pursue commercialization.

AMANDA WALDROUPE