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Research in action

Eurodetector – forged banknote detector

In the lead up to the introduction of the euro in 2000, Europol – the EU’s police coordination office – anticipated a wave of counterfeit euro notes and coins. New computing and printing technologies, now widely available, add to the growing threat of counterfeiting. Fortunately, several security elements have been built into the euro’s design, including a distinctive watermark, foil hologram, special tactile properties and machine-readable features.

With support from the Union, the Eurodetector project is providing money handlers with a foolproof system for not only detecting false notes, but also for counting and authenticating the cash. Jean-Paul Vacandare of France’s Contrôle et Traitement des Monnaies Sécurité attributes the success of the project to its European-level collaboration.

“Together with our partners, we’ve been able to come up with and test new and different ideas,” he said. The resulting counterfeit note detector, with its magneto resistant sensor, has all the trademarks of a market winner. It should be affordable for even Europe’s small retailers and helps to detect fraud at the point of sale. 

Nite-Crime – Natural isotopes and trace elements in criminalistics and environmental forensics

As criminals become more sophisticated at covering their tracks, forensic scientists need to be more vigilant. Precise identification of the origins of substances, such as a shard of glass, a bullet or a fragment of paint, is invaluable in forensic science. But labs performing chemical analysis of such non-organic materials have varying standards and approaches. Often their job is made more difficult because of the tiny quantity of sample available. This means there may be enough for only one analysis, limiting the number of corroboratory tests that can be made.

A network of 12 members – comprising forensic science institutes, chemical laboratories, and other research organisations in Europe, Australia and the USA – has been set up under the EU’s research programme. The project aims to develop sophisticated chemical analysis techniques (mass spectrometry) for identifying the source of minute fragments in inert materials. Their work will help to provide evidence that links an individual to a crime scene beyond doubt. 

Forensics on the case

In a murder case where police suspect a body may have been moved to another location, they bring in forensic scientists to analyse the mineral debris on the body or clothes. By comparing the mineral breakdown of the fragments from the two sites, they can prove whether the body has been in both places. New mass spectrometry techniques – combining laser ablation and various separation methods – promoted by the EU-supported Nite-Crime project enable forensic scientists to prove this beyond doubt using extremely small samples.
  

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Research in action