Innovation | DNA Fog

Caroline Winter


Form and function

A fog-based security system that marks intruders with genetic material derived from plants. It’s hard to remove and links suspects to crime scenes.


Stony Brook (N.Y.)-based Applied DNA Sciences developed the tracers, and Danish security company SmokeCloak builds the deployment devices.

“Police often have a very good idea who the criminals are, but they just cannot prove it.”

— Applied DNA Sciences Chief Executive Officer James Hayward

Next Steps

European banks use these genetic markers in cash-carrying boxes, and the markers have supported convictions in 57 cases in the U.K. DNA Fog may be a tougher sell in the U.S., where such technology isn’t as widely accepted. Its engineered DNA is unique, though: The Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency says it has failed in more than 400 attempts to replicate it.

1. Contact Triggered by an alarm, the fog-deployment system fills the bank, warehouse, or cargo truck with thick DNA Fog, obscuring a criminal’s vision.

2. Residue DNA Fog contains plant-based forensic markers that cling to humans and objects.

3. Proof positive Applied DNA Sciences creates customized engineered DNA that can be traced back to the scene of a specific crime.

4. Longevity The charged, water-resistant genetic particles are nearly impossible to remove from human skin and hair for up to three weeks.

5. Use DNA evidence stands up well in courts. Criminals caught in the fog can be implicated not by the genetic markers they leave at a crime scene, but by what the crime scene leaves on them.

6. Cost As of May, small stores can pay $4,000 to install the deployment system and receive their own DNA Fog. Hayward says the price goes up for bigger jobs.


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