Chemical photography is a specific technique that allows scientists to look within objects to discover the chemicals inside. This has uses in all sorts of areas: forensic science, creating new medicines, and even discovering fake artworks!

Why is this important?

fingerprintHow can chemical photography catch criminals?

Forensic scientists have used infrared spectroscopy for some time to investigate paint samples from crime scenes. This could provide information such as what car caused a crash. Now the technique is being used in fingerprint analysis. If fingerprints are found at a crime scene, they are carefully lifted from a surface using gelatin tape. This special type of tape is used because gelatin does not interfere with the chemical composition of the fingerprint and affect the analysis. Chemical photography can then be used to differentiate the chemical content of the fingerprint. The chemical makeup of the fingerprint can then be matched to samples taken from suspects.



Making more effective medicines

tabletsChemical photography is also used in the pharmaceutical industry (designing and developing new medicines). Specific drugs are contained within medicines, for example a paracetamol tablet will be made up of paracetamol (which is the drug) and maize starch. The tablet has to dissolve within the body for the drug to be released, enter the bloodstream, and stop you feeling pain. Chemical photography allows scientists to see the physical and chemical processes that are happening inside tablets as they are dissolving. This helps them to develop new types of medicines which allow the drugs inside them to start working more quickly inside the body i.e. it makes medicines more effective.

Chemical photography can also be used to study biological objects such as cells and tissues; for example it has been used to create images of live cancer cells. Scientists can tell what molecules are present within the cells, and how they are changing over time. This helps them to develop new types of chemotherapy (treating cancer by using drugs) and to see the effects that new drugs have on cancer cells.