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Feasibility study of portable sensors for detection and quantification of drugs in seized samples and biological samples

Abstract

Considering the context about the increasing use of drugs, coupled with the need to optimize processes adopted by law enforcement agencies and even an increase in the industry of clinical analysis devices, this project seeks to attend these sectors and, thus, contribute to society through innovation. The aim of this research project is to develop electrochemical sensors of low cost that are specific for illicit drugs (marijuana, cocaine, and MDMA) and enable an analysis without prior sample preparation, replacing conventional colorimetric tests which are not very specific, increasing reliability analysis as well as providing the quantification of the analytes in seized samples. A second line of research is to study these same sensors for the analysis of drug in biological samples. These analyzes can have a forensic or medical purpose, depending on the employer, if forensic lab or hospital lab, for example. The detection of drugs of interest on the detector surface will be monitored by means of measurements of electrical parameters (current and voltage) through the use of voltammetric technique. For this purpose, the devices will be formed by screen-printed electrodes or papertrodes, by using surface chemical modification to ensure specificity and sensitivity to various drugs. These electrodes can be modified by physical mixtures, by electrodeposition or film deposition on the electrode surface, depending on the studied species. At the same time, it will be developed a portable device like a micropotentiostat, but with the algorithms and methodologies previously established to perform the voltammetric analysis. There is also the development of the interface to interact with the user to provide a simple final result containing quantitative information about each analyte investigated. For this system, we have a team of engineers who will use their knowledge of embedded electronics to work together to chemical analysis team. At the end of this phase of the project, it is expected to have a working prototype, and 3 validated sensors (electrodes) for each one of the 3 proposed drugs, with satisfactory performance for quantification at trace levels, presenting optimized and validated methods. In addition, it is expected to reduce to the minimum the number of steps of experimental procedures for sample preparation. It is expected a positive impact about the combination of electronic device coupled with electrochemical sensors, such that the set will allow the professionals of public safety (forensic experts, technical advisers, and court experts) as well as the clinical sector (outpatient and hospital routines), which now have a portable and easy to handle equipment. Both professional healthcare and public safety, need no chemical knowledge of the analysis process to determine content of investigated drugs, as well as the whole system involved in these two spheres, by means of the rapid response, favoring the flowchart analysis and the procedures to be followed. (AU)