A device capable of detecting weed abuse outside the lab was long-awaited by the police.
Alcohol can easily be detected by simply having the suspect blow into a breathalyzer but detecting marijuana abuse with sufficient proof has always been a problem.
But it looks like scientists are now about to solve this problem.
A research team from the University of Pittsburgh has just introduced a device that can detect THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for weeds effects, in blood by testing the breath using their recently developed breathalyzer.
So far the only way to detect if a person is abusing marijuana is by running blood and urine tests.
Even these tests can’t reveal if the person is under the influence when the sample is taken. These complexities make on-field detection of weed use nearly impossible.
The device recently developed by University of Pittsburgh researchers utilizes carbon nanotubes.
The nanotubes have an affinity for THC molecules and hence can very accurately determine the levels of marijuana in the breath, ultimately in the blood.
Sean Hwang, who led the research team from Pittsburgh, said: “The semiconductor carbon nanotubes that we are using weren’t available even a few years ago.
“We used machine learning to “teach” the breathalyzer to recognize the presence of THB based on the electrical currents’ recovery time, even when there are other substances, like alcohol, present in the breath.”
The team claims that the new technology is on par with mass spectrometry, the technique being used already.
The beta version of the device is visibly similar to a standard breathalyzer used to detect alcohol in the breath.
Testing has shown that this new technology can not only detect THC but is also able to distinguish it from other components of breath like water, carbon dioxide, ethanol, and acetone.
Dr. Ervin Sejdic expressed his views about the new technology, saying: “Creating a prototype that would work in the field was a crucial step in making this technology applicable. It took a cross-disciplinary team to turn this idea into a usable device that’s vital for keeping the roads safe.”
However, the device is not yet perfect and requires some more working before it can go mainstream.
Dr. Alexander Star said: “In legal states, you’ll see road signs that say ‘Drive High, Get a DUI,’ but there has not been a reliable and practical way to enforce that.
“There are debates in the legal community about what levels of THC would amount to a DUI, but creating such a device is an important first step toward making sure people don’t partake and drive.”