Analyse forensic evidence either in laboratory conditions or directly at the crime scene. Hyperspectral imaging is a non-contact, non-destructive method that requires no sample preparation, ensuring the integrity of evidence.
A crime scene can hold a myriad of evidence – stains, marks, or residue. It is for the forensic investigators to identify, gather and analyse the samples to help find out what happened. While forensic science has made leaps and bounds in the past, could it still benefit from hyperspectral imaging?
Several independent studies indicate that it could. There is room for improvement in the current crime scene investigation methods: while some of them use chemicals and therefore risk contaminating the sample, others require sending the samples for laboratory analysis, which takes time and money. What is missing is a non-contact, non-destructive way to identify materials quickly, reliably, and on location. Here are just a few examples of how hyperspectral imaging can improve forensic investigation methods.
Identifying blood stains
A stain is found at the possible crime scene. Is it blood, or something else? Is it from the nosebleed that happened last week or from a more recent event? Hyperspectral imaging finds blood stains in crime scenes quickly and easily. What is more, it can even help determine how old the blood stain is. No chemicals are involved, therefore there is no risk of diluting or altering the blood spatter.
Hyperspectral imaging for the age estimation of blood stains at the crime scene.
Examining gunshot residue
Gunshot residue is delicate evidence. When a forensic investigator applies chemicals for visualisation, they can alter the pattern that is used for reconstruction and determining shooting distances and angles. As a result, they may destroy valuable information. Hyperspectral imaging can provide a quick, non-contact tool for determining the presence of the gunshot residue at a scene and visualising the patterns.
Visible and near-infrared chemical imaging methods for the analysis of selected forensic samples
Analysing paint marks in hit-and-run cases
Paint traces left on a scene of a hit-and-run case can give valuable information on the car that escaped the scene. Paint analysis, however, requires microscopes and sample preparation. With hyperspectral imaging, a quick test performed at the scene could narrow down the possible makes of the car based on the paint spectra.
Evaluation of Hyperspectral Imaging Visible/Near Infrared Spectroscopy as a forensic tool for automotive paint distinction
The future of hyperspectral imaging in forensics
Forensics is more than just crime scene investigation. The possible applications of hyperspectral imaging do not end there, either. Hyperspectral imaging could, for instance, help doctors determine the age of a bruise – objectively and accurately. It could also be used in a laboratory to identify fraudulent documents without having to destroy the sample. As the technology develops and becomes more portable and easier to use, it is quite possible that a hyperspectral camera will be a regular part of forensic investigators’ toolbox in the future.