Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Forensic Science & Clinical Toxicology
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Fluorescent Sensor Detects Date Rape Drug Within Seconds

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Bookmark and Share
The sensor, developed by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), identifies the presence of GHB, a drug known commonly used to spike beverages.

When the sensor is mixed with a sample of a beverage containing GHB, the mixture changes colour in less than 30 seconds, making detection of the drug fast and easy.

This simple mix-and-see discovery, led by Professor Chang Young-Tae of the Department of Chemistry at the NUS Faculty of Science, is a novel scientific breakthrough that contributes towards prevention of drug-facilitated sexual assault problems.

The findings were first published in the journal Chemical Communications earlier this year.

GHB: notorious drug used in drink spiking
Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, commonly known as GHB, is a central nervous system depressant that has been used in the medical setting as a general anaesthetic. In the 1990s, it gained notoriety as a drug allegedly used in instances of drink spiking. Today, it is one of the most commonly used date rape drugs, rendering the victim incapacitated and vulnerable to sexual assault.

As GHB is odourless, colourless and slightly salty, it is almost undetectable when mixed in a drink, thus making it desirable to sexual predators. A small amount of between two to four grams of GHB will interfere with the motor and speech control of a person, and may even induce a coma-like sleep. GHB takes effect within 15 to 30 minutes, and the effect can last for three to six hours. It is only detectable in urine six to 12 hours after ingestion.

Novel fluorescent sensor to detect GHB
Fluorescent dyes have been widely used as sensors for analytical purposes because of their high sensitivity, fast response time and technical simplicity.

Under the supervision of Prof Chang, the team of researchers, comprising Dr Zhai Duanting, a Research Fellow, Mr Xu Wang, a PhD candidate, as well as Mr Elton Tan, a recent graduate, of the Department of Chemistry at the NUS Faculty of Science, screened 5,500 dyes generated from different fluorescent scaffolds. These fluorescent scaffolds have been used to construct the Diversity Oriented Fluorescence Library (DOFL) that was developed by Prof Chang over the last decade.

The team shortlisted 17 fluorescent compounds and further tested them with a wide range of different GHB concentrations. Through this, the team identified that an orange fluorescent compound, coined GHB Orange, changes colour when it is mixed with GHB.

In order to examine the efficiency of GHB Orange, the team tested its detection capability by mixing a small amount of it with samples of various beverages, ranging from alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coloured and colourless drinks, which contain GHB. The test revealed differences in the fluorescence intensity between GHB-free and GHB-spiked beverages. For drinks that are translucent or of a light colour, such as water or vodka, the change in colour can be easily detected with the naked eye. The change in the colour of darker drinks, such as Cola and whiskey, requires the aid of additional lighting to better detect the change.

Remarkably, this detection can be done through a simple mix-and-see process, which takes less than 30 seconds.

Future plans
While GHB Orange has proven to be efficient in detecting GHB in beverages, there is a need to develop a test kit that is convenient for users to use and carry around. Prof Chang and his team intend to work with industry partners to develop a handy and cheap device for GHB detection.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
Questioning the Validity of Forensic DNA Match Statistic
Fifteen years of criminal cases with affected mixture evidence.
Study Raises Questions About DNA Evidence
University of Indianapolis researchers say contamination through secondary transfer of material could implicate the innocent or help the guilty go free.
'Forensic Toolkit’ to Improve Evidence Detection and Analysis
Students from The University of Dundee have been developing a forensic `toolkit’ that will allow investigators to determine the age of fingerprints, detect traces of steel on bone from stabbings, and produce a biosensitive spray that can reveal traces of bodily fluids at crime scenes.
Glowing Fingerprints to Fight Crime
A CSIRO scientist who had his home broken into has developed a new crime scene identification technique to help fingerprint criminals.
Forensic Facial Examiners Can Be Near Perfect
In what might be the first face-off of its kind, trained forensics examiners from the FBI and law enforcement agencies worldwide were far more accurate in identifying faces in photographs than nonexperts and even computers.
Ancestral Background Can Be Determined By Fingerprints
A proof-of-concept study finds that it is possible to identify an individual’s ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics – a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological research.
CSI -- On The Metabolite's Trail
Bioinformaticians at the University of Jena make the most efficient search engine for molecular structures available online.
People Emit Their Own Personal Microbial Cloud
We each give off millions of bacteria from our human microbiome to the air around us every day, and that cloud of bacteria can be traced back to an individual.
Blood, Teeth Samples Predict a Criminal's Age
Forensic biomedical scientists from KU Leuven have developed a test to predict individuals’ age on the basis of blood or teeth samples. This test may be particularly useful for the police, as it can help track down criminals or identify human remains.
Contactless Fingerprint Technology is Coming
Quickly moving through security checkpoints by showing your hand to a scanner seems straight out of science fiction, but NIST is working with industry to bring fast, touchless fingerprint readers out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos