Pollen Nano-Tags on Bullets for DNA Tagging

Printer-friendly versionPDF version


DNA profiling success rates for evidence gathered from gun casings is only about 10%.  Researchers in England have shown that using nanoengineered coatings on the brass jackets of bullets may significantly improve the DNA profiling success rates for forensic scientists.  This may prove a major deterrent for criminals and be a valuable tool for forensic scientists if this technology becomes ubiquitous[1]

The novel technology developed by the researchers captures the DNA of the person handling the cartridges as well as deposits tiny nanotags on the handler’s skin or clothing.  The nanotags are made of a particular type of lily pollen grain, each coated with 63nm thin layers of titanium dioxide[2].  The titanium dioxide matrix is deposited on the pollen grains using chemical vapor deposition methods.  These pollen grains are then suspended in a PLA coating that is then applied to the bullet casing[1]

The titanium dioxide coated pollens can withstand temperatures of over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, are nearly impossible to wash off completely, and will also trap DNA from the sweat and skin of the handler[2].  This nanoengineered coating may find applications for the tagging and identification of other dangerous or highly regulated items in the future[1].



Development Stage: 

Key Words: 




This technology improves upon forensic methods for identification and monitoring.






Benefit Summary: 

This technology improves safety by deterring gun criminals and aiding in the forensic analysis of gun related crimes and cases.


Risk Summary: 

The risks associated with this technology are likely contained to the manufacturing process. Vapor deposition of titanium oxide is a chemical process and should be subject to the appropriate chemical controls. The risk for environmental or ecological harm during use is likely low since the particles are micron sized, greatly reducing the risk for cell damage or penetration. Additionally, the materials used are titanium dioxide and an organic polymer, making them less environmentally harmful than the lead and other substances in bullets.

Risk Characterization: 

Risk Assessment: