Drug breathalyser developed by scientists starting with cocaine
The drug breathalyser can detect cocaine within minutes.
The technology that drug users have feared and police have wished for is here: A chip that can detect drugs has been developed by scientists from the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Not the first of its kind, but definitely the most cost effective of its kind considering it’s for the good of the police department.
The high performance chip can be integrated into a handheld, portable device (breathalyser) that can effectively detect drugs in blood, breath, urine or spit samples.
Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University as well as lead developer of the chip said:
“The high-performance chip we designed was able to detect cocaine within minutes in our experiments. It’s also inexpensive: It can be produced using raw materials that cost around 10 cents, and the fabrication techniques we used are also low-cost.”
The chemical fingerprint of cocaine and other drugs
All chemicals, including cocaine, opioids and active ingredients in marijuana, have a unique light-scattering signature- like a fingerprint.
The sensing method used is called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) whereby the chip, which is an engineered nanostructure, traps light at the edges of gold and silver nanoparticles.
When chemical or biological molecules (samples) land on its surface, it interacts with the trapped light, creative a scattering effect (the unique fingerprint), and voila; the substance present is revealed.
Another pro is that the technology has a long shelf-life, with researchers noting that it performed well after a year in storage; which is due in part to its innovative design.
As Gan says, “With our structure, we can realize both high performance and stable performance over time.”
For us in South Africa, this probably won’t manifest soon, but for developed countries; take note of the imminent drug breathalyser.