Fingerprint technology so advanced it can tell if someone had unwrapped a condom or worn a certain brand of hair gel could soon be admissible in court.
The technique uses mass spectrometry, a very effective chemical analysis that can detect if a person has eaten certain food or drinks.
It can also tell whether a person is male or female and if they touched blood, allowing for a more detailed profile of potential suspects in criminal cases.
The Home Office told the BBC it could be “only months” before it is used as evidence.
Scientists from Sheffield Hallam University have been working with West Yorkshire Police to pilot the technology.
It could even be used in cold cases – the name for crimes which remain unsolved.
Project lead Dr. Simona Francese revealed that the team had used it to find blood in a 30-year-old print.
She said: “I would want to see this technology in high-profile cases such as murder or rape.”
“It’s very sophisticated, it’s expensive but it’s worthwhile.”
“The amount of information there potentially to retrieve is huge,” added Francese.
Now experts can detect whether a person has taken drugs, if they have cosmetics or cleaning products on their hands, if they have drunk coffee or touched a certain brand of condom lubricant.
Sheffield Hallam University researchers have been working with the police force for five years.
The Home Office has given $105,500 to help fund the project with the hope that all police forces in the UK will eventually use it.
Senior technical specialist Stephen Bleay said: “There’s a lot of scientific work going on, with Sheffield Hallam University and West Yorkshire Police visiting crime scenes looking at how this technique could fit in with the workflow of collecting conventional forensic evidence and other types of evidence, such as DNA and fibers.
“I think it’s fairly close to bottoming out all the questions that could be raised in court. It’s possible this is only months away from being used on casework.”