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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

September 23, 2009
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Lindsey J. Bertomen Police Products
with Lindsey J. Bertomen

Product Review: TerraLUX TLW-80UV

I recently tested the TerraLUX TLW-80UV Ultraviolet work light and the TerraLUX MiniStar2-UV (TLE-5UV) Ultraviolet LED Upgrade kit. The TLW-80UV proved to be a good fit for a major incident command post. The TLE-5UV, an ultraviolet conversion kit for the 2AA Mini Maglite is something that every sworn officer, including those whose beat is surrounded by towers, should carry every day.

Ultraviolet light is used to distinguish features, evidence, or deliberately placed markings normally invisible to the human eye. Certain types of evidence will naturally fluoresce under UV light. These things include semen, saliva, and other bodily fluids. Both lights tested here are in the UVA (Ultraviolet A) bandwidth, which begins at wavelengths shorter than 400 nm. This is suitable for an initial crime scene and false document screening.

Deliberate use of UV light for forensics often uses chemicals to enhance the visibility of trace evidence or wavelength filtering. There is an advanced science for revealing trace evidence, serological evidence and locating accelerants.

UV illumination is non-destructive. That is, the investigator generally will not deteriorate or destroy the evidence by limited exposure to UV light. Therefore, every officer should take advantage of their ability to carry a UV light for screening purposes. Using ultraviolet light is a time-saver — it allows the investigator to quickly identify areas in a scene which need more attention. Examiners trained in confirmatory tests will likely have more input from the first responder.

Terralux is an emerging technology company composed of engineers on the cutting edge of LED and multi-discipline technology. Their expertise has affected the public safety industry through a unique relationship: They have taken reliable, time-proven platforms and improved their usability. I have used several of their upgrades on duty in the past and am familiar with their utility. Although TerraLUX is not affiliated with Mag Instrument Inc, the maker of Mini Maglite, the symbiosis is unmistakable. Many of us bought the LED upgrade (MiniStar) modules and modernized our MagChargers to the brightest patrol lights they can be.

The TerraLUX TLW-80UV is a rechargeable combination work light and UV flashlight with an array of 60 white LEDs in its transparent barrel and 21 UV Leds in its flashlight head. It is weather sealed and rechargeable. TerraLUX provides an AC and a DC cord in the kit.

The TLW-80UV is lightweight and about the same size as an “old school” patrol light. Although the design is definitely durable, the clear tube that makes up the body, which also houses the 60 LED array, was surprisingly sturdy considering it barely weighed anything and was completely transparent. Its durability and weather resistance is appropriate for its intended purpose. It uses simple lightweight seals between parts. I would have preferred a more waterproof seal on the rocker switch, but would not have given up the rocker switch design for a better seal.

The 60 LED array threw an efficient 180 degree pattern of soft usable light. It did not produce harsh shadows or render misleading colors. I found I could stand it on its flashlight head and have a really good work lamp that didn’t cause eye fatigue. I can think of a few medical calls where this product would have been ideal. Because of its sealed design and floodlight character, it is a likely candidate to go on scene at a drug lab where it is prudent to shut off the electricity.

The TLW-80UV has a 21 LED array flashlight head which emits a diffused 385 nm beam. It was suitable for locating a variety of stains and especially useful finding contrasting trace evidence. For example, I was able to distinguish dust particles on some clothing using the light without the aid of a filter.

My TerraLUX TLW-80UV gave four hours of usable light in 50 percent UV, 50 percent work light cycles, which dropped off quickly after the cells were depleted. It recharged to full use in the advertised 90 minutes and usability was consistent throughout the use/discharge cycles. The convenience of vehicle and wall charging makes this a great tool to have in the field.

The TLW-80UV is best employed in the major incident command center. It is perfect for emergency lighting and preliminary investigation. It is a reliable work light and a handy inspection light.

The TLE-5UV is a 395nm kit for the 2AA Mini Maglite. It consists of a mounted UV LED and a reflector that optimizes this product. One simply unscrews the flashlight head and installs the kit.

The TLE-5UV is a Ministar 2 UV LED. It is noticeably brighter than most other products on the market. To put this in perspective, a standard handheld UVA lamp requires the user to get on the floor to see what they need to see. The TLE-5 UV user just has to shut the lights off in a room and sweep it from the doorway. The light appears a little “whiter” than the TLW-80UV and it is not as diffused looking. Officers will appreciate the high contrast crime scene screening advantage.

LEDs last hundreds of times longer than standard bulbs and they dramatically extend battery life. I have experimented with this product for about a month, testing all of its capabilities, and just started my second set of alkaline cells.

The TLE-5UV is a conversion kit for an already proven product that gives the patrol or correctional officer a pocket sized tool. I found it exemplary for checking for watermarks in licenses, credit cards and DMV documents. It could easily detect stains and create contrasts in material. It is so inexpensive that an agency could purchase these kits in quantity and save money by the crime scene screening they can provide.

TerraLUX deserves some recognition with their product line. They have a dozen or so flashlight upgrades, including a Mini Maglite tailswitch and a 140 lumen (yes, 140! This is not a typo!) upgrade for the 2AA Mini Maglite.

This is engineering!


About the author

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Online Teaching and Learning. Lindsey has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. His articles on firearms tactics have appeared in print for over a decade. Lindsey enjoys competing in shooting sports, running, and cycling events.

Contact Lindsey Bertomen

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