Surface Analysis Techniques in Forensic Science: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for Operational Deployment

Melanie J. Bailey, Marcel de Puit, Francesco Saverio Romolo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Surface analysis techniques have rapidly evolved in the last decade. Some of these are already routinely used in forensics, such as for the detection of gunshot residue or for glass analysis. Some surface analysis approaches are attractive for their portability to the crime scene. Others can be very helpful in forensic laboratories owing to their high spatial resolution, analyte coverage, speed, and specificity. Despite this, many proposed applications of the techniques have not yet led to operational deployment. Here, we explore the application of these techniques to the most important traces commonly found in forensic casework. We highlight where there is potential to add value and outline the progress that is needed to achieve operational deployment. We consider within the scope of this review surface mass spectrometry, surface spectroscopy, and surface X-ray spectrometry. We show how these tools show great promise for the analysis of fingerprints, hair, drugs, explosives, and microtraces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-196
JournalAnnual review of analytical chemistry (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • fingerprints
  • forensic science
  • imaging mass spectrometry
  • spectroscopic imaging
  • surface analysis
  • trace evidence


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