Sensor can tell someone, in real-time, whether or not their drink has been altered
Photo: CD Bank
Two Tel Aviv University researchers say that they have developed a personal sensor that can detect the presence of the most common date rape drugs in beverages, 100% of the time.
Date rape drugs, also known as club drugs, have sedative and/or amnesiac effects that facilitate sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are teens and young adults at trance parties, clubs and bars.
Data published by the US Department of Justice suggest that approximately 200,000 women were raped in the United States with the aid of date rape drugs in 2007 alone. However, only 16% of the victims reported the incidents to the proper authorities. Experts believe that around half a million women per year may currently be suffering from date rape.
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According to Professor Fernando Patolsky and Doctor Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University’s school of chemistry, the sensor can tell someone, in real-time, whether or not their drink has been altered. The next stage of the project is to miniaturize the system for mass production.
The two developers created the system, which is based on optical signal changes. The device sucks up a tiny drop of the suspect beverage and puts it in contact with a patented chemical formula.
If a drug is present, it will react with the chemical formula, causing it to change from a clear state to a dirtier one. When a ray of light comes into contact with a beverage spiked with a date rape drug, a signal change occurs and the system will alert the user.
Ioffe says that the chemical formula is non-poisonous and will therefore not require government approval prior to production. He also believes that the system will be cheap to produce.
Once released to the public, the device will be no larger than the head of a pin, thus allowing club-goers to check their drinks without others noticing.
“You just dip it into your drink. It might actually look like a stirrer in the final production. It’s tiny, very tiny,” Ioffe told AFP. “You don’t even have to hold it up to the light and the system will let you know whether there are drugs dissolved in your drink.”
'No false positives until now'
Ioffe noted that he and Patolsky are not yet sure how the device will let its users know whether the drink is safe for consumption.
“We haven’t decided how it will let you know. Maybe it will just light up or a part of it will rotate or maybe it will send a signal to your cell phone because you want to be discreet about it.”
Patolsky and Ioffe were aided in their research by bartenders who mixed 15 popular cocktails for them, as well as soft drinks and other beverages. Blind testing was then carried out to measure the accuracy of the sensor.
Out of 50 drinks that were randomly spiked with date rape drugs, the system detected the drugs with 100 per cent accuracy in all of the spiked drinks, none of which were previously known to be spiked by the two researchers.
“What’s amazing is that there is no false positives until now. We have some very, very optimistic preliminary results,” said Ioffe. “All we need is money,” he added.
The sensor can currently detect the presence of two of the most-commonly used date rape drugs: GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and ketamine. However, the scientists are also working to expand the device’s detection ability to include Rohypnol, a drug often used to sedate the victims of date rape.
Ioffe and Patolsky expect the first batch of sensors to be commercially available within a year and a half.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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