+91 11 45152301
Carbon Dots for Fingerprint Detection August 21, 2023 - BY RealScan Biometrics

Carbon Dots for Fingerprint Detection

Advances in nanotechnology have enabled forensic scientists to analyse evidence with greater precision and accuracy than ever before.

One major area of application for nanotechnology in forensic science is trace evidence analysis, such as fibres, hair, and DNA. Nanoscale materials can be used to enhance the visualization of these types of evidence, making it easier to identify and analyse.

What are Carbon Dot Powders?

Carbon dots are nanoscale carbon-based materials that have recently gained significant attention in various fields, including forensics. These nanoparticles typically have a diameter of less than 10 nanometres and contain carbon atoms arranged in a spherical or polyhedral structure.

In forensics, these are used to enhance the detection of latent fingerprints on various surfaces, including non-porous and porous materials.

The carbon dot powders are coated onto a surface and then excited with a light source, which causes them to fluoresce and reveal the hidden fingerprints.

Carbon dots can be synthesized from a variety of carbon sources, such as citric acid, glucose, or other carbon-containing molecules, through a process known as carbonization. During carbonization, the carbon source is heated to high temperatures, typically in the presence of an acidic or basic catalyst, to form carbon dots.

Overall, the unique properties of carbon dots make them a promising nanomaterial for various forensic applications, including trace evidence analysis, fingerprint detection, and drug and explosive detection.

How to Use Carbon Dots for Fingerprint Detection?

Carbon dots can be a preferred method for forensic fingerprint identification in several scenarios, including:

• Non-Porous Surfaces: Traditional fingerprint detection methods, such as dusting or chemical treatments, may not be effective on non-porous surfaces such as glass or plastic. In such cases, carbon dots can be used to enhance the visibility of the latent fingerprints.

• Low-Contrast Fingerprints: Some latent fingerprints may have low contrast and be difficult to detect using traditional methods. Carbon dots can increase the contrast and make these fingerprints more visible.

• High-Sensitivity Detection: Carbon dots have high sensitivity and can detect even small amounts of latent fingerprints that may be missed by traditional methods.

• Environmental Considerations: Carbon dots are environment-friendly and have low toxicity, making them a preferred method for fingerprint detection in situations where there are concerns about the impact of chemical treatments on the environment or human health.

Optical Properties of Carbon Dots


One of the key properties of carbon dots is their ability to absorb light in the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When carbon dots are applied to a surface containing a latent fingerprint, they adhere to the residual oils and sweat on the fingerprint, creating a contrast between the fingerprint and the background surface.

When excited with a light source, such as a UV lamp or a laser, the carbon dots fluoresce, emitting light in a different color from the light that they absorbed.

The fluorescence from the carbon dots enhances the visibility of the fingerprint, making it easier to identify and compare with a known fingerprint.

The absorption and fluorescence properties of carbon dots can also be tuned by adjusting their size, shape, and surface chemistry. This allows for the optimization of the carbon dots for specific applications, such as fingerprint identification on different surfaces or in different environmental conditions.


When exposed to light, carbon dots emit light of a different color, depending on their size and surface properties. This emission of light is known as photoluminescence, and it can be used to create a unique fingerprint of the carbon dots.

In fingerprint identification, a small amount of carbon dots is mixed with a fluorescent ink, which is then applied to a surface. When the ink dries, it forms a pattern of carbon dots that can be visualized using a UV light. The unique photoluminescence signature of the carbon dots allows for easy identification of the pattern, which can be used as a fingerprint.


Carbon dots (C-dots) are a type of fluorescent nanomaterial that exhibit a unique property called phosphorescence, in addition to fluorescence.

This property makes C-dots a powerful tool in fingerprint identification.

Phosphorescence is the ability of a material to emit light after it has been excited by a light source, even after the excitation source has been removed.

In the context of fingerprint identification, this property allows for longer imaging times, as the C-dots continue to emit light after the excitation source is turned off. This enables the detection of fainter details in the fingerprint, improving the accuracy of the analysis.

Carbon Dot Powder for Accurate Latent Fingerprint Identification 

Fingerprinting is a powerful tool in forensic science and has been used for over a century to help solve crimes. Forensic fingerprinting is based on the fact that every individual has a unique pattern of ridges and valleys on their fingertips, which remains unchanged throughout their lifetime. Therefore, fingerprints can be used to identify individuals with a high degree of certainty.

Latent prints refer to the unintentional or hidden fingerprints left by an individual on surfaces such as glass, metal, or plastic. These prints are usually invisible to the naked eye and require specialized techniques to be visualized and analysed.

Latent prints can be left at crime scenes and provide valuable evidence in forensic investigations. There are various methods for developing latent prints, including dusting with powder, applying chemicals, or using specialized light sources.

Once developed, the prints can be photographed and analysed using digital software to enhance their quality and aid in identification.

Carbon dots (C-dots) have been explored as a potential tool for enhancing latent prints. The following is a brief overview of how latent prints can be enhanced using C-dots:

1. First, the surface containing the latent print is treated with a C-dot solution. The C-dots are typically dispersed in a suitable solvent, such as ethanol or water.

2. The C-dots bind to the organic components in the latent print, causing it to become fluorescent or phosphorescent. This means that when the surface is illuminated with a specific type of light, such as UV or blue light, the latent print becomes visible as a bright and distinct pattern.

3. The enhanced latent print can be captured using photography or digital imaging techniques. This allows investigators to analyse the print and compare it to known fingerprints in a database, with the aim of identifying the individual who left the print.

The accuracy of the latent print enhancement using C-dots compared to traditional methods depends on various factors, including the quality of the latent print, the type of surface on which it is located, and the specific method used for enhancement.

Advantages of C-Dots

High sensitivity: C-dots are highly sensitive to organic materials, which allows them to effectively bind to and enhance latent prints.

Selectivity: C-dots are selective in binding to organic materials, which minimizes the risk of interfering with other materials that may be present on the surface.

Easy to Apply: C-dot-based methods are relatively simple and easy to apply, and they do not require extensive sample preparation or specialized equipment.

High Enhancement Rate: Studies have shown that C-dot-based methods can produce a higher overall enhancement rate and fewer false positives compared to traditional methods.

Applicable to Aged Prints: C-dot-based methods have been shown to be effective in enhancing both fresh and aged latent prints.

Non-Toxic: Carbon dots are generally considered to be non-toxic and biocompatible, which minimizes the risk of harm to investigators and other individuals who may come into contact with the enhanced prints.

Limitations of C-Dots

The cost of C-dots is currently higher than some traditional methods, which may limit their availability and use in some forensic laboratories. While C-dots are generally considered to be non-toxic and biocompatible, further studies are needed to fully evaluate their potential toxicity and safety in a forensic setting.

Current Challenges and Future Prospects

One of the current challenges in C-dot research is the lack of standardization in carbon dot synthesis, characterization, and application. Efforts are underway to develop standardized protocols and procedures to ensure consistency and reproducibility across different studies and applications. While small-scale synthesis of C-dots is relatively straightforward, large-scale synthesis for commercial applications remains a challenge. Developing cost-effective and scalable synthesis methods is a current focus of research.



Carbon dots (C-dots) can be used as a powerful tool for latent print enhancement during forensic investigations. Their unique properties, including their sensitivity, selectivity, and high enhancement rate, make them a potential alternative to traditional methods of latent print enhancement. Despite the current challenges and limitations associated with C-dots, their potential applications in a wide range of fields, including biomedicine, optoelectronics, and environmental monitoring, suggest a bright future for this rapidly developing area of research.

Need help?

Contact by WhatsApp

Hello RealScan Biometrics