A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, is on the verge of piecing together a new type of forensic tool using smartphone molecules If employed successful, the researchers declared, it can help investigators track down criminals whose fingerprints are not in the database.
Pieter Dorrestein, the senior researcher on this project, said that each time we use our smartphones, we leave behind molecules on the screen. This may not sound altogether exciting, but, according to the senior researcher, these invisible molecules can tell more about your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and health status than your doctor or social media account.
Outlining the method, Professor Dorrestein said that the smartphone molecules could be used to construct an accurate personality profile. One simple analysis, the Professor added, can tell us about the places you’ve visited, food you ate, preferred cosmetic brands, or if you suffer from any illnesses.
The senior researcher declared that this forensic method could have countless applications, including airport security, criminal profiling, drugs adherence programs, and even clinical trials.
In a jovial manner, the lead scientist said the projects started from one simple fact: everybody using a smartphone. Moreover, each time you touch your handheld device you leave behind invisible molecules.
For the purpose of this study, Dorrenstein and his team invited 39 healthy adults to participate. The team asked the participate to use their phones. After that, the scientists collected swab sample from the phone’s screen and from the participants’ right hand. A total of 500 samples were collected as part of the study.
Then, using a technique called mass spectrometry, the team was able to analyze the smartphone molecules found in the swab samples. The results of this analysis were more than intriguing.
According to Dorrenstein, the analyzed samples revealed traces of sunscreen, anti-inflammatory compounds, skin creams, eye drops, and even anti-depressants.
Using this technique, the lead scientists added, we could create personality profile with uncanny accuracy. For example, we can determine if the subject was female, what kind of skin care products she used, if she was ill or healthy, or what places she visited recently.
This method of investigation was possible thanks to a GNPS database, a website developed by the senior researcher and his colleagues. The GNPS database is basically a repository for molecules scanned by the mass spectrometer. By comparing smartphone molecules to those in the database, the scientists can construct a detailed personality profile.
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