A new bit of nanotechnology will soon be aiding criminal investigations into gun crime. Scientists from several British universities have collaborated to produce microscopic “nanotags”, only 30 microns across, that will adhere to the shell cartridge and casings of ammunition and will also stick to the gloves or hands of anyone handling them and are very difficult to wash off. The tags, once heated by a weapons discharge, will also absorb sweat, skin, and lactic acid from the skin of someone they have adhered to and allow provide a quality DNA sample. Just loading the shells will often capture forensically significant amounts of dead skin for analysis. The tags can then be retrieved or detected and a solid link between perpetrators and a crime scene can be established. The novel tags were developed using compounds modeled on naturally occurring pollen, which has exceptionally sticky properties. The nanotags should be available on a commercial scale within a year.

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