“UV Fingerprint” Developed By Scientists From Mendel University May Help With Criminal Investigations

The Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry of Mendel University in Brno has developed a simple procedure for identifying liquids, including food and drugs. The technique has promising implications for criminal investigations. Photo Credit: Mendelu.cz.

Brno, Jul 30 (BD) – Scientists from the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry of Mendel University in Brno have developed a simple technique for identifying samples of food and drugs according to their fluorescence, known as a “UV fingerprint”. This allows detection of cases where, for example, the technological process has changed during the production of juices, and also allows analysts to determine the origin of wine or drugs. 

This new procedure has a wide application, said Lukáš Nejdl, the head of the bioanalysis and imaging laboratory at Mendel University’s Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and also has promising implications for criminal investigators.

The technology is based on a simple principle, using the spectral characteristics of the sample. “We illuminate the sample with UV radiation and thus cause a number of interesting photochemical reactions that are specific to the sample,” said Nejdl. “After a few minutes, it is possible to say from where and what it originated, depending on the spectral characteristics, for example, whether it’s a variety of wine or a type of juice.”

Based on this principle, virtually any liquid sample can be illuminated, including biological samples, pesticides, food, clinical samples such as urine, serum, plasma, blood, or medicine, including drugs.

“We test individual samples and try to find applications in practice. We are also looking for partners in the commercial and public spheres,” said Nejdl. His team is so far working mostly with wines, specifically analyzing white wine varieties. From just a drop of commonly sold white wine, the UV fingerprint can identify the wine by comparison with the database. The new method can assist significantly in the area of ​​wine authentication, identification, and fingerprinting.

Researchers are also starting cooperation with the Czech Police, who have a new department trying to develop new analytical procedures from the work of forensic scientists, which could be used in the course of their investigations. The method is also suitable for detecting counterfeit drugs or profiling addictive substances in order to determine who prepared the drug.

“This method could have a very interesting future in forensic practice, as we would be able to detect different types of poisons and certain groups of drugs in the field. An interesting idea may be its use in the biological sector,” said Radim Pernický from the Prague Police Presidium’s Department for Science, Research and Innovation.

As with penicillin, the original discovery of ​​the Mendel University scientists was an accident. When they needed orange juice for their experiments, they noticed that samples of this drink always behaved differently. What seemed like a complication for the original experiment raised the unexpected question: what if someone needed to detect differences in seemingly identical substances?

Scientists are now expanding their efforts to include material chemistry, specifically the UV synthesis of a number of interesting nanomaterials.

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