Menzel, E. Roland Center for Forensic Studies, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Fluorescence techniques
- Phosphorescence techniques
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The application of physics for purposes of civil or criminal law. Forensic science has been dominated by the fields of chemistry (mainly analytical chemistry) and biology (serology and DNA profiling). Indirectly, physics has contributed to forensic science via the invention of the microscope, the electron microscope, the mass spectrometer, and optical spectrometers; but directly, its role in forensic science has been minimal. Forensic physics has traditionally involved the measurement of density (soil and glass examination), index of refraction, and birefringence (fiber analysis, glass examination). In the last 25 years, the use of the photoluminescence phenomenon for physical evidence examination has emerged, with latent fingerprint detection the most notable application. In criminalistics, fingerprint detection is important because it provides absolute identity, and does not suffer from the contamination problems to which DNA profiling is prone. See also: Criminalistics
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