Infrared Imaging of the Crime Scene: Possibilities and Pitfalls

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All objects radiate infrared energy invisible to the human eye, which can be imaged by infrared cameras, visualizing differences in temperature and/or emissivity of objects. Infrared imaging is an emerging technique for forensic investigators. The rapid, nondestructive, and noncontact features of infrared imaging indicate its suitability for many forensic applications, ranging from the estimation of time of death to the detection of blood stains on dark backgrounds. This paper provides an overview of the principles and instrumentation involved in infrared imaging. Difficulties concerning the image interpretation due to different radiation sources and different emissivity values within a scene are addressed. Finally, reported forensic applications are reviewed and supported by practical illustrations. When introduced in forensic casework, infrared imaging can help investigators to detect, to visualize, and to identify useful evidence nondestructively.

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