While there are currently breathalyser tests available for alcohol, detecting whether someone has been taking drugs isn’t so simple.

But researchers from the University of Buffalo have developed a new chip that could allow police officers to easily monitor drug use.

The chip could be integrated into a handheld, portable device for detecting drugs in biological samples such as blood, breath, urine or spit.

Dr Qiaogiang Gan, who led the study, said: “Currently, there is a great demand for on-site drug testing.

“The high-performance chip we designed was able to detect cocaine within minutes in our experiments.

“It’s also inexpensive: It can be produced using raw materials that cost around 10 cents, and the fabrication techniques we used are also low-cost.”

The chip works by trapping light at the edges of gold and silver nanoparticles.

When biological or chemical molecules land on the chip’s surface, some of the captured light interacts with the molecules and is “scattered” into light of new energies.

This effect occurs in recognisable patterns that reveal information about what compounds are present – whether it’s cocaine, opioids or active ingredients in marijuana.

The team will now install the chip in a simple, portable device.

This technology would first run blood, breath, urine or saliva through a purification process that extracts specific molecules, such as cocaine or other drugs.

Then, any chemicals captured through this procedure would be transferred to the chip for detection and identification.

Dr Gan added: “In the future, we are hoping to also use this technology to detect other drugs, including marijuana.

“The widening legalisation of marijuana raises a lot of societal issues, including the need for a system to quickly test drivers for drug use.”

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