It’s said the pen is mightier than the sword, but a central Iowa scientist is developing something that could be mightier than the pen — at least the pen’s ink. John McClelland is leading an Ames Laboratory team working on ways to identify ink at the molecular level in criminal cases. Samples can be taken from something written in ink and compared with the ink from a given pen. McClelland says there are many hundreds of types of ink and many pens that use the same ink, but he says each ink has its own sort of “fingerprint.”The research also shows promise in determining how long ago something was written in ink. McClelland says it’s still far from being as definitive as a human fingerprint, but he’s hopeful this technique will become a useful tool in tracking down and prosecuting terrorists and other criminals.McClelland says the ink research began long before September 11th and the anthrax mailings, but he admits his work is now viewed in a different light. McClelland has won a 160-thousand dollar grant from the National Institute of Justice.
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