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Teesside University research praised in Parliament

23 September 2014 @TeessideUni


Ground-breaking research at Teesside University which has been described as the “holy grail” of crime detection has been praised in Parliament.

The forensic breakthrough will enable scientists to not only identify blood stains at crime scenes but also accurately estimate their age.

In Parliament, the Redcar Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales urged ministers to roll out the new technology to police forces across Britain.

Dr Meez Islam, a Physical Chemist and Reader in the University’s School of Science & Engineering, is one of the academics behind the research, which uses visible wavelength hyperspectral imaging for the positive identification of blood. It also enables investigators to pinpoint the age of a one month old blood stain to within one day – something that has so far eluded forensic scientists.

Along with colleagues Dr Liam O'Hare, Peter Beveridge, Dr Andrew Campbell and Dr Bo Li, Dr Islam has set up a spin-out company, Chemicam, in a bid to take their product to market.

Ian Swales said: 'I have known about this work for some time and was pleased to get the opportunity to raise the subject in Parliament.

'It is a great example of scientific research that could have a significant impact on crime scene investigation and it showcases the fantastic and truly innovative work being carried out at Teesside University.'

Speaking in the House of Commons, George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, said: 'I would absolutely join in on congratulating his constituents on the work that they are doing and highlight the importance of government procurement in supporting innovation.'

Dr Islam says that he has visited police forces and forensic service providers around the country and received a groundswell of support for the new technology.

The next step is to create a fully-functional portable device which can be used on location or in a forensic lab.

'To have this research spoken about in Parliament was an extremely proud moment for myself and my colleagues involved in this work. I think this adds a great deal of prestige to what we are doing, and is also very positive for the research reputation of the University,' said Dr Islam.

'There has been lots of support for our work and we really do believe it has the potential to be a significant breakthrough in forensic science.

'At the moment we have a prototype lab device but we require funding to help turn it into a portable, robust instrument that can be taken out to crime scenes. We also need to get our instrument independently validated against existing techniques. The science, behind the detection and identification of blood stains has mostly been sorted out, but we need more engineering development of the instrument. For the age estimation of blood stains we also need to do further studies to model the effects of environmental variables, but with funding we are confident that we could do this relatively quickly.'

The hyperspectral imaging technique is a non-contact, non-destructive way of immediately detecting and identifying blood without contaminating evidence. It can quickly differentiate between what is blood and what isn’t and it can locate blood stains on problematic areas such as red clothing or dark backgrounds and at diluted amounts.

Dr Islam added: 'It provides fast, at the scene identification of blood and speeds up the investigative process as items do not need to go back to a laboratory to be examined. To use hyperspectral imaging in a way that scans the crime scene for blood also means that the chances of missing a bloodstain are vastly reduced.'

'Our method is able to accurately estimate the age of a one month old blood stain to within a day under controlled conditions. It is potentially a huge step forward for forensic science. Again it speeds up the investigative process as you are able to quickly estimate how old a blood stain is.

'At crime scenes, blood stains can be from different time periods. Our technique can distinguish between overlapping blood splatter patterns of different ages and could be used to determine the timeline for a violent crime.'