chicksdaddy writes Criminals beware: researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have figured out how to recover serial numbers obliterated from metal surfaces such as firearms and automobiles — a common problem in forensic examinations. According to this report, NIST researchers used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to read, in the crystal structure pattern, imprints on steel that had been removed by polishing. ... The more perfect the crystal structure, the stronger and clearer the pattern. Software can then calculate the pattern quality to reveal crystal damage; areas with more damage produce lower quality patterns. In the NIST experiments, described in Forensic Science International, researchers hammered the letter 'X' into a polished stainless steel plate. The letter stamps were as deep as 140 micrometers, meeting federal regulations for firearm serial numbers. The researchers then polished the metal again to remove all visible traces of the letters, and collected the EBSD diffraction patterns and pattern quality data and analyzed them for evidence of the imprints.
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