Forensic science at the interface between chemistry and physical ergonomics

Research Institution / Organisation

Loughborough University

Principal Researcher

Beth McMurchie

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2015

Research Context

Fingerprints are widely used for both criminal investigation and personal identification. There is currently lots of research being undertaken aiming to improve the clarity of detail in fingerprints. However, this research is focusing on a different aspect of fingerprinting; the physical size of fingerprints and the use of fingerprints within a Bertillonage approach. This is being investigated through collaboration between Chemistry and Design at Loughborough University.


The aim of this research is to use the combined physical characteristics of the distal phalanx to demonstrate if a relationship exists between them and the height or weight of an individual. If a significant correlation is found, it could be developed into a low-cost, fast and effective biometric method for the police and other identification services to obtain an initial description of an individual. Having a guide to overall stature and body type from analysis of a deposited print would, for example, focus law enforcement agents to identify a smaller section of the population in a given search area.


The initial part of this research is simply aiming to identify how significant the relationship between fingerprint size and physical size is. A study is being undertaken using a bespoke compliance meter, which is able to apply a fixed force to each participant’s fingertip whilst collecting a photograph of the area where the finger is in contact with the surface. A photograph of the standardised fingerprint of each participant is collected and measured, and height and weight of participants is measured, following anthropometric measurement conventions.


The results of this study will provide an indication as to the viability of this form of biometric analysis applied in the field of identification.

Research Methodology

​Approximately 200 participants will be recruited for the initial study to establish whether a significant correlation exists between fingerprint size and stature.


A bespoke finger compliance meter is used to apply a fixed force to each participant’s fingertip and to collect a photograph of the participant’s fingertip that can be measured. Two light sources are used with the camera to obtain a solid white image of the fingerprint due to frustrated total internal reflection. For height and weight measurements, a standard stadiometer and scales are used.

In future studies, the adequate number of participants will be used to ensure reliable and repeatable results are obtained.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

October 2019
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