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Improving the Reliability of Drug Tests Done by Officers

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2016
2 pages
This is the summary of an article on a research project that developed a test capable of presumptively identifying drugs in the field based on the luminescence that appears when the substances at issue react with a certain class of metals, followed by the creation of a low-cost, reliable, portable hand-held spectrometer that, in combination with a smart phone, can be used in the field to produce more accuracy and specificity in the identification of suspect substances.

The researchers succeeded in developing a fluometer by making a small black box with a 3-D printer. They used a low-cost cold cathode lamp to provide the fluometer's excitation light. The system is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The unit enables investigators to identify powders and other substances by using a paper test strip soaked in copper iodide. Certain classes of drugs react with the copper by giving off a fluorescent light signature unique to the drug. An investigator in the field can photograph the fluorescence spectrum with a earphone, upload the result to the Cloud, compare it with known spectra in an online database, and identify the substance. This method yielded fewer false positives and false negatives than the spot (color) tests since it does not allow multiple interpretations of the result. Also, the system does not require that officers who use it have extensive training.

Date Published: November 1, 2016