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An Assessment of Sensing Technologies for the Detection of Clandestine Methamphetamine Drug Laboratories

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Forensic Science International , Volume 189, Issue 1-3, p.1-13 (2009)


Clandestine drug laboratories; Chemical sensor technology; Gas sensors; Methamphetamine


Clandestine drug laboratories involved in the production of illicit drugs represent one of the most significant social challenges facing most societies. In North America, clandestine methamphetamine production is particularly important and is associated with significant impact on health, safety, and the environment. Many of these production laboratories are temporary and capable of producing large quantities of prohibited drugs in production cycles that can often span less than 48 hours, making timely discovery essential. This paper offers an assessment of sensing technologies capable of detecting the effluents commonly released during the production cycle for the various production methods. A brief review of the most common methamphetamine manufacturing processes is provided, and the target gases are identified. Each of these manufacturing processes has a unique temporal chemical signature and it is possible that this signature can be used to distinguish a methamphetamine laboratory from other legitimate sources of these gases. In the context of the target gases, this paper provides an assessment of both
commercial and research stage sensor technology. The results of this assessment are used to draw conclusions about the most suitable sensing technologies for methamphetamine laboratory detection.

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Research Area(s): 
Sensors and Actuators