U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Molecularly Imprinted Polymer-Modified Microelectrode Arrays for Rapid In-Field Analysis of Trace Illicit Substances in Oral Fluid

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $150,000)

Increased availability and use of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid used as an adulterant in commonly abused drugs, has led to a drastic increase in accidental exposures and overdoses in the last decade. Whereas drug adulteration places unknowing users at risk, responders are also at risk due to exposure from accidental aerosolization. Therefore, a fast, accurate, and portable drug analysis platform is needed for crime scene analysis and field use to inform real-time decision-making by responders. Existing methods to analyze drugs or assess intoxication generally require off-site, specialized analyses, and/or invasive blood draws. These methods are costly, time-intensive, and contribute to the large sample backlog in crime laboratories. With the introduction of a reliable and practical drug field test, we have the potential to reduce backlog in crime laboratories, maintain safe roads, protect officers responding to crime scenes, and better help overdose victims. Here, we propose molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP)-modified microelectrode arrays for field detection and quantification of trace amounts of illicit substances in solid samples and saliva. In this study, we focus on the most widely trafficked drugs: cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and THC, but our system could be applied to almost any drug. Electrochemical sensors are advantageous as they are fast, cost-effective, and able to be miniaturized. MIPs add selectivity and sensitivity to the measurements, and their selectivity can be tuned for each drug of interest. We propose the development of a microelectrode array (the “mipChip”) and a portable potentiostat (the “SweepStat”) for in-field drug detection, employing voltammetry to determine drug concentration. We will characterize the MIPs using various surface characterization techniques available to us in the Chapel Hill Analytical Nanofabrication Laboratory. We will also validate the miniaturized sensing method against commercial potentiostats. The final sensor developed will be portable and capable of detecting and quantifying the five illicit drugs listed above in dissolved solids and saliva representing a game-changing advance in point-of-use forensics with clear implications to streamlining the judicial processes. Papers will be published after completion of each project goal outlining the advancements and validation. "Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).” CA/NCF

Date Created: September 20, 2020