A new technique created by Shin Muramoto and Edward Sisco at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland may provide information about when a person and their fingerprints were at a particular location. Their findings were released in July in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

The men used a chemical analysis technique known as mass spectrometry to investigate fingerprints of different ages, reports CNet. What they found was that as a fingerprint gets older, chemicals within it such as palmitic acid migrate away from the ridges of the print at a predictable rate.

So far, the researchers have only published findings involving prints that were up to 4 days old, and in ideal lab conditions, but they say they've continued to track changes for months, CNet reports. 

If they can further expand and confirm their findings, it could mean someday crime scene investigators will be able to tell how long a fingerprint has been on a surface, not just whom it belongs to.