Chemical enhancement of soil based footwear impressions on fabric

Kevin J. Farrugia, Helen Bandey, Lorna Dawson, Niamh Nic Daeid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the enhancement of footwear impressions prepared with soils from different locations on a variety of fabric surfaces with different morphology. Preliminary experiments using seventeen techniques were carried out and the best responding reagents were evaluated further.

Results indicated that the soils investigated (a cross-section of soils from Scotland) are more likely to respond to reagents that target iron ions rather than calcium, aluminium or phosphorus ions. Furthermore, the concentration of iron and soil pH did not appear to have an effect on the performance of the enhancement techniques. For the techniques tested, colour enhancement was observed on all light coloured substrates while enhancement on dark coloured fabrics, denim and leatherette was limited due to poor contrast with the background.

Of the chemical enhancement reagents tested, 2,2'-dipyridil was a suitable replacement for the more common enhancement technique using potassium thiocyanate. The main advantages are the use of less toxic and flammable solvents and improved clarity and sharpness of the enhanced impression. The surface morphology of the fabrics did not have a significant effect on the enhancement ability of the reagents apart from a slight tendency for diffusion to occur on less porous fabrics such as polyester and nylon/lycra blends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12–28
Number of pages17
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2012


  • footwear impressions
  • soil
  • fabric morphology
  • iron
  • enhancement
  • pH


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