The police are using mineral analysis technology QEMSCAN, which can analyse minute particles, to investigate geological material from crime scenes.
This can mean anything from a few grains of soil embedded on the sole of a shoe to dirt in a car tyre.
Use of the technology resulted from police working with scientists from the Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall.
University geology expert Dr Duncan Pirrie told CSIRO Minerals Australia that the use of QEMSCAN had led to three murder convictions. It is being used in 10 other investigations.
The technology was originally developed by CSIRO Minerals over 20 years and commercialised through Queensland-based Intellection.
QEMSCAN (Quantitative Evaluation of Materials using Scanning Electron Microscopy) comprises a scanning electron microscope integrated into an automated mineral analysis solution.
In two years, Intellection has established a client base that includes Anglo Platinum, BHP Billiton, CVRD, Noranda-Falconbridge, Phelps Dodge and Rio Tinto, and now of course British police.
QEMSCAN has also found a use in the world of archeology, analysing artifacts such as Bronze Age pottery and pharaohs’ make-up.