Analysis of fingerprint images may in future reveal more than a suspect's identity, thanks to research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with recent substances they have handled also apparent from scans.A NIST study published in Analytical Chemistry magazine found that advanced spectroscopy can detect and measure tiny flecks of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin in a fingerprint whorl. “Calibration curves relating the signal intensity to the amount of drug deposited on the surface were generated from inkjet-printed arrays of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin with a deposited-mass ranging nominally from 10 pg to 50 ng per spot”, writes the study.The researchers created drug-tainted fingerprints pressed onto paper or silicon by using a 3-D printed plastic finger and a synthetic version of finger oil.On the fingerprint on paper, only the concentration map of cocaine could be constructed using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry DESI-MS, as the signals of methamphetamine and heroin were completely suppressed by matrix and substrate effects.However, for the drugs on the fingerprint on silicon, ToF-SIMS showed “great success”, as it was able to generate concentration maps of all three drugs.Spatially resolved quantification of illicit drugs using imaging mass spectrometry is possible, concluded the research, while adding that the choice of substrates could significantly affect the results.