Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Accessible biometrics: a frustrated total internal reflection approach to imaging fingerprints

Smith, Nathan D.; Sharp, James S.


Nathan D. Smith


Fingerprints are widely used as a means of identifying persons of interest because of the highly individual nature of the spatial distribution and types of features (or minuta) found on the surface of a finger. This individuality has led to their wide application in the comparison of fingerprints found at crime scenes with those taken from known offenders and suspects in custody. However, despite recent advances in machine vision technology and image processing techniques, fingerprint evidence is still widely being collected using outdated practices involving ink and paper – a process that can be both time consuming and expensive. Reduction of forensic service budgets increasingly requires that evidence be gathered and processed more rapidly and efficiently. However, many of the existing digital fingerprint acquisition devices have proven too expensive to roll out on a large scale. As a result new, low-cost imaging technologies are required to increase the quality and throughput of the processing of fingerprint evidence. Here we describe an inexpensive approach to digital fingerprint acquisition that is based upon frustrated total internal reflection imaging. The quality and resolution of the images produced are shown to be as good as those currently acquired using ink and paper based methods. The same imaging technique is also shown to be capable of imaging powdered fingerprints that have been lifted from a crime scene using adhesive tape or gel lifters.


Smith, N. D., & Sharp, J. S. (2017). Accessible biometrics: a frustrated total internal reflection approach to imaging fingerprints. Science and Justice, 57(3),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 15, 2017
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2017
Publication Date May 1, 2017
Deposit Date Apr 27, 2017
Publicly Available Date Apr 27, 2017
Journal Science & Justice
Electronic ISSN 1876-4452
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 57
Issue 3
Keywords Fingerprint; Waveguide; Imaging; Frustrated total internal reflection
Public URL
Publisher URL


SciandJustice_final.pdf (932 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations