South Korean researchers develop sensor that detect a person’s intake of amphetamine-based drugs with a drop of sweat

A portable wireless sensor developed by South Korean researchers (co-developed by Korea’s Institute for Basic Science and Pohang University of Science and Technology) is able to detect a person’s intake of amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall, Ecstasy and Crystal Meth using just a drop of sweat, saliva or urine. Right now, drug testing involves using complex diagnostics devices that are often bulky, expensive and slow. There are cheaper, on-site drug testing devices available, but they are unable to detect drug intake under 1 ppm.

The IBS-POSTECH team built the sensor by coating an organic semiconductor with a chemical — Cucurbit [7]uril hydrate — that selectively bonds with amphetamine molecules. The newly-developed portable sensor measures 1.5 x 3.5 centimeters. When tested, the sensor’s sensitivity stood at 0.1 ppt for water and 0.1 ppb for urine, which is around 10,000 times as sensitive as today’s existing portable drug screening sensors. As of now, the sensor has been designed as a smart bracelet prototype that syncs with a smartphone. If commercialized, the team expects the technology will make drug screening as easy as testing for alcohol intake with a breathalyzer.

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