Developing a low-cost tool to improve the speed and accuracy of crime investigations

Engineers at UC Riverside's Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering have received a $600,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to develop a test kit that can rapidly identify body fluids at crime scenes.

Existing tests to detect body fluids are not very sensitive and consume relatively large amounts of the sample. They also can only detect one type of body fluid at a time, slowing down and increasing the cost of investigations with separate tests for fluids such as blood, saliva, semen, urine, and sweat.

Ashok Mulchandani, a distinguished professor of chemical and environmental engineering; and Hyoseung Kim, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will use the funds to develop a nanobiosensor system that can quickly and precisely identify 10 body fluid protein biomarkers from small samples at crime scenes.

They will keep costs low by integrating nano-sized resistors and sensors with disposable paper-based microfluidics. The sensor platform will also be integrated with mobile-phone platforms for remote analysis, data processing, and communication.

Mulchandani, the project leader, will lead the development of paper-based biosensor arrays that can detect multiple body fluids. Kim will design software tools and electronic hardware components to obtain high-quality sensor data with a mobile device, such as a phone.

Although the tests will not be available for police to use for some time, the team already has promising evidence and preliminary results indicting positive outcomes that could revolutionize current forensic-analysis methods.

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