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Trace Detection of Narcotics Using a Preconcentrator/Ion Mobility Spectrometer System, NIJ Report 602-00

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2001
26 pages
This document presents research conducted by the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) on trace drug detection.
The detection of illicit drugs is currently an area of major research interest. One category of drug detection involves indirect detection of a drug by collecting and analyzing small quantities of vapor or particle contamination. Ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) is perhaps the most widely used technology developed for this type of application. IMS has a number of advantageous features, including the potential ability to detect almost all drugs of interest, moderate cost, near instantaneous response time, and sensitivity in the sub-parts per billion range in some cases. There is a present need to improve sampling techniques in order to apply the trace detection of illicit drugs to the problem of personnel screening. This study was performed at New Mexico State University (NMSU) during fiscal year 1999. The experiments combined a chemical preconcentrator and associated control hardware developed at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) with an IMS constructed at NMSU. The goal was to investigate the efficacy of the preconcentrator in the general field of drug detection. An initial determination was being sought concerning the feasibility of a trace drug detection portal for personnel screening that would operate on the same principles as the explosives detection portal. Based on the results, it appears that such a drug detection portal could be developed, but more research and development is needed. The next step would be to extend the present studies to include detection of both trace and bulk drug samples in a mock-up portal. The studies to be performed would include experiments both with true trace samples, such as clothing contaminated with fingerprints containing drug particles, and with bulk drug samples concealed under clothing. The IMS was used to detect drugs with and without nicotinamide dopant. Studies of the preconcentrator efficiency are discussed. The IMS could easily detect 1 microgram of all the drugs studied, which included methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 10 figures

Date Published: April 1, 2001