Accurate detection of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, has relied on laboratory instruments, while portable sensors have been prone to false alarms and contamination. A more reliable hand-held detection unit with reduced false alarm rates and rapid response time is needed to prevent drug trafficking. The EU-funded DIRAC project aimed to develop a portable tool that can rapidly identify illegal drugs, as well as their precursors and derivatives. Three prototypes were tested with various drugs, precursors and derivatives, and showed high sensitivity and overall excellent ability to identify these compounds. Test outcomes showed that the sensor enables the handling, separation and examination of samples. It can also distinguish between a number of compounds, and detection is not compromised by humidity or the presence of other chemicals. It will be possible to use the completed DIRAC sensor as a portable device, which will be able to analyse and detect both bulk and trace materials. In addition, it will deliver drug detection in approximately two minutes, and specific drug identification in about five minutes. The three prototypes created were an identification unit, a salts detector and a vapour detector. These could feasibly be combined into a single device as part of a future project. A final demonstration took place in 2014 at Brussels Airport's goods and customs area. This device provides the most accurate detection and analysis of illegal drug precursors currently available. The fully functioning prototype sensor should prove invaluable for law enforcement and customs organisations in their fight against illicit drug production, trafficking and street distribution.
Screening and detection, illegal drugs, amphetamines, portable sensors, trace materials