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New forensic technology at Iowa State University could determine the age of fingerprints

Chemists say this information could potentially tie a suspect to a crime scene.

AMES, Iowa — The newest tool in forensic science can analyze a person's chemical profile with a single fingerprint, and could determine how old that fingerprint is.

A study led by Iowa State University chemistry professor Young-Jin Lee is finding out whether that data could be used in criminal courts.

Paige Hinners is a chemistry graduate from the university. She noticed during the study a change in the fingerprints she was looking at.

"We were looking at each specific mass, which is unique to a specific compound in this case, and we tracked each of those overtime and we noticed that some of them were degrading," Hinners told Local 5.

"We repeated this study many times for three different participants, so we could show that it was reproducible, and this is in fact, actually happening," Hinners said.

RELATED: Report: State crime lab has backlog of cases, wants more money from state lawmakers

How could this help with criminal cases? 

Lee and Hinner say determining the age of a fingerprint could prove whether or not a suspect in a case was at the crime scene when the incident occurred.

"What this would do is allow investigators to say, 'Okay, this print is seven days old. Our crime scene is three days old, so we don't need to us this,'" Hinner explained.

While this technology may not be used in court for a few years, each scientist is hopeful for the future.

"The fact that we made the discovery in this small-town Iowa, that is what makes this exciting," Lee said.

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