With roadside drug testing for motorists spreading around the world, the need for an accurate and fast ecstasy (MDMA) test is growing. Many current testing kits are expensive, time-consuming and often trigger false positives, but a new detection method has been developed that promises simple, reliable and cheap testing for the popular recreational drug.

A research team stumbled onto the new technique while they were working on building parts for molecular machines. These molecular machines are nano-sized devices that currently sit at the cutting-edge of science. (Another team of researchers propelled the technology into the spotlight last year after winning the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for innovations in developing machines that function on a molecular level.)

This team, composed of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark, the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Biomedical Research Networking Center in Bioengineering, Biomaterials & Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN) in Spain, inadvertently discovered that a certain molecular activity could identify small traces of MDMA with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

"It is our impression that a need exists for more reliable, user-friendly and cheaper tests. What makes our method stand out is that it can detect even small traces," explained Jan O. Jeppesen, a chemistry professor at the University of Southern Denmark.

The MDMA detection test that has been subsequently developed involves a porous ball of atoms filled with molecules that light up when released from the ball. Those luminescent molecules are released by the ball when it comes into contact with MDMA, even in minuscule concentrations.

The team hope to turn this discovery into easy, cheap and reliable testing kits.

The research and method was recently published in the journal Chemical Communications.

Source: University of Southern Denmark