Gloves with fingertip sensors to detect smuggled drugs


Researchers from UAntwerp have developed a way for customs officials to detect smuggled cocaine quickly and efficiently

Faster and cheaper

Researchers from Antwerp University (UAntwerp) have developed fingertip electrochemical sensors to detect smuggled cocaine quickly and effectively. They are now integrating these sensors into gloves, which will make it easier for customs officials to check suspicious substances in containers and luggage and carried by travellers.

Currently, customs officials at the port of Antwerp, for example, screen for cocaine using colour tests. “These are fast and user-friendly, but the change of colour is not always easy to interpret,” explained professor Karolien De Wael, of UAntwerp’s chemistry department. “To rule out mistakes, the colour test needs to be confirmed in a specialised laboratory, which takes time and money.”

With the National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology and the University of California, De Wael’s team have developed innovative sensors to detect cocaine. These sensors will now be integrated in the fingertips of gloves.

“It will be possible to detect cocaine on the spot without needing any pre-treatment,” said De Wael. The price per glove will be less than €1, and in future, other drugs could be detected using the same method.

The first results of the research were described in the Master’s thesis of student Nick Sleegers, who is in the running for the Agoria Award – the Flemish dissertation award for technology and innovation.

Photo: Ingimage