Latent fingerprints on metal surfaces may be visualized by exploiting the insulating characteristics of the fingerprint deposit as a “mask” to direct electrodeposition of an electroactive polymer to the bare metal between the fingerprint ridges. This approach is complementary to most latent fingerprint enhancement methods, which involve physical or chemical interaction with the fingerprint residue. It has the advantages of sensitivity (a nanoscale residue can block electron transfer) and, using a suitable polymer, optimization of visual contrast. This study extends the concept in two significant respects. First, it explores the feasibility of combining observation based on optical absorption with observation based on fluorescence. Second, it extends the methodology to materials (here, polypyrrole) that may undergo post-deposition substitution chemistry, here binding of a fluorophore whose size and geometry preclude direct polymerization of the functionalised monomer. The scenario involves a lateral spatial image (the whole fingerprint, first level detail) at the centimetre scale, with identification features (minutiae, second level detail) at the 100–200 μm scale and finer features (third level detail) at the 10–50 μm scale. However, the strategy used requires vertical spatial control of the (electro)chemistry at the 10–100 nm scale. We show that this can be accomplished by polymerization of pyrrole functionalised with a good leaving group, ester-bound FMOC, which can be hydrolysed and eluted from the deposited polymer to generate solvent “voids”. Overall the “void” volume and the resulting effect on polymer dynamics facilitate entry and amide bonding of Dylight 649 NHS ester, a large fluorophore. FTIR spectra demonstrate the spatially integrated compositional changes. Both the hydrolysis and fluorophore functionalization were followed using neutron reflectivity to determine vertical spatial composition variations, which control image development in the lateral direction.
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