Massachusetts Patent of the Month – May 2021

Sensing drugs like cannabinoids and opioids in a person’s breath can be very helpful in testing for substance abuse and the like. The traditional blood and fluid tests are accurate but costly and usually require expensive equipment. Besides that, it can be prudent to have a rapid measurement, for instance with road-side testing for DUIs. N2 Biomedical designed a breath test which uses spectroscopy to detect THC and other aerosols. 

The person-in-question would breathe into the device, with the breath passing over a piece of filter material. The filter paper can then be examined using an infrared spectroscopy. The spectroscope provides a laser source and photodetector. Cannabinoids and other opioids each have unique infrared absorption signatures. When looking through the spectroscope, these signatures can be viewed, looking for both presence and intensity of the absorption. THC in particular can show a distinctive, sharp spectral absorption which makes it easily quantifiable. N2 Biomedical has identified specific spectral absorption bands to identify different narcotics, and different components – like THC and CBD individually. The actual spectroscope measurements can be done using an FTIR interferometer which is commercially available. The FTIR is tunable, so it’s easy to adjust it to search for the identified spectral absorption bands. This method allows for rapid identification and detection of different narcotics. The presence of the spectral absorption indicates presence of the drug, and the intensity indicates concentration. This system is a simple, quick drug detection method.

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