Skip to content
Jump to


Researchers from Imperial College London are using a new method of chemical photography to solve problems in areas as diverse as forensics, pharmaceuticals, cultural heritage and medicine.

Infrared detectors, which were developed by the military, are now available for use by civilian scientists. Shining infrared light on objects and measuring how it is absorbed can produce a chemical photograph of the object. Chemical photography detectsthe presence and interactions of different molecules, whether it is the distribution of drug molecules in a pharmaceutical tablet or the ageing process of paintings in the National Gallery. Infrared imaging has also given a new understanding of the evolution of atherosclerosis, the arterial disease that is the primary cause of mortality in all developed countries.

“Chemical photography offers many opportunities to scientists by allowing them to obtain molecular information about objects, from the chemical imaging of fingerprints to seeing inside cancer cells. This technology could play a significant role in medicine as well as the fight against crime,” says Professor Sergei Kazarian, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London.

Visitors to the exhibit will be able to use an infrared imaging spectrometer to measure their own fingerprints and determine their chemical composition, as well as see everyday objects from a chemical perspective.

Web links

Exhibited by Imperial College London

See all exhibits from 2010