Vacuum Metal Deposition: Visualisation of Gold Agglomerates using TEM Imaging

Xuejing Dai, Milutin Stoilovic, Christopher Lennard, Naomi Speers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Vacuum metal deposition (VMD) is a well-established technique that can be used for the development of latent fingermarks on a range of polymer surfaces, including polyethylene (PE) bags exposed to harsh environmental conditions. The technique has also proved to be effective on difficult semi-porous surfaces such as the polymer banknotes in circulation in Australia and in an increasing number of other countries. VMD is a two-stage technique. In the first stage, a small amount of gold is deposited under high vacuum onto the exhibit. This is then followed by the deposition, onto the gold layer, of a much thicker layer of zinc. Normal VMD development is characterised by zinc depositing all over the surface except on the fingermark ridges themselves. A phenomenon of reverse development (zinc on the ridges but not on the surface) has been reported by many authors. Recent studies indicated that this phenomenon might occur on low-density polyethylene (LDPE) when the amount of deposited gold is above an optimum quantity. The results suggested that the size of the gold agglomerates formed on the surface of the polymer plays a critical role. This preliminary study was aimed at visualising, by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the formation of gold agglomerates on polymer surfaces to gain an appreciation of how the density and size of these agglomerates changes with an increasing amount of evaporated gold
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-222
Number of pages4
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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