Perfume Can Be Used as Trace Evidence

October 25, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. trace / treɪs / (v.) – to find the origin of something
Example: The police traced the suspect’s location using the GPS signal of his phone.

2. contact / ˈkɒn tækt / (n.) – the state of touching another person or object 
Example: The scientist wears gloves to avoid contact with the chemicals.

3. application / ˌæp lɪˈkeɪ ʃən / (n.) – the act of putting a substance on something, such as the skin
Example: My sister will teach me proper make-up application.

4. welcome / ˈwɛl kəm / (adj.) – received positively
Example: The invention of the app was a welcome innovation in online communication.

5. forensic science / fəˈrɛn sɪkˈsaɪ əns / (n.) – the use of science in investigating and solving crimes
Example:  He took a special course on forensic science while studying as a lawyer.


Read the text below.
A new study suggests that perfume could be used in the future as trace evidence in solving crimes.

Trace evidence refers to any item or detail left in the crime scene that can be traced back to a criminal, such as hair, fibers of clothing, chemicals, and residues from firearms.

In the study, scientists discovered that the chemical components of perfume can be transferred from one piece of cloth to another through physical contact. The amount of components transferred depends on the length of contact, as well as the amount of time that had passed since the perfume was sprayed.

The researchers pressed two pieces of cloth five minutes after perfume application. After 10 minutes of contact, the researchers found that 24 of the perfume’s 44 chemical components were transferred between two pieces of cloth. Six hours after perfume application, the researchers found that 12 components could still be transferred. After seven days, six chemical components remained transferable.

According to Dr. Ruth Morgan, director of the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences, the study has shown two important points. First, perfume is transferable through contact; and second, the time when the transfer occurred is identifiable.

While the potential use of perfume traces in solving crimes is a welcome innovation in forensic sciences, researchers are still working on improving it. Meanwhile, other methods commonly used in gathering evidence are also being improved.

In 2015, lead researcher Shin Muramoto and his colleagues have discovered a way to identify how old fingerprints are through a substance called palmitic acid. The acid can be used to estimate the date of a fingerprint, letting investigators see which fingerprints are relevant and which ones are not.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What can be the advantages and disadvantages of using perfume as trace evidence? Discuss.
·         How important is time in gathering evidence?

Discussion B

·         Why is research and development important in forensic science, or the use of science in solving crimes?
·         If you could invent a device that could help solve crimes, what type of device would it be? Describe.

October 25, 2016