Pierre Esseiva

Rapid screening and indentification of illegal drugs by IR Absorption spectroscopy and gas Chromatography

Domaine: Cooperation Security

Acronyme: DIRAC

Durée: 01.06.2010 – 30.11.2013

Budget total: 2.990.000 EUR

Budget UNIL: 432.000 EUR


Pierre Esseiva, Institut de police scientifique, ECS



The goal of this project is to develop an advanced sensor system, that combines miniaturized Gas Chromatography (GC) as its key chemical separation tool, and Hollow-Fiber-based Infra Red Absorption Spectroscopy (HF-IRAS) as its key analytical tool to recognize and detect illicit drugs, key precursors and potential derivatives.

The DIRAC sensor will be developed to:

  1. be used on the field primarily by customs officers for controls at the EU external frontiers and by law enforcement personnel for intra-Community checks as a rugged and hand-portable unit;
  2. perform rapid detection of key chemicals;
  3. reject interferents with minimal false positive alarm rate;
  4. perform advanced data analyses such as similarity evaluation between the chemical structure of the unknown sample with that of controlled/illicit substances.

Currently, GC-IRAS (through FTIR implementation) is, together with GC-MS (Mass Spectrometry), the most powerful technique for the identification and quantification of amphetamines. However, so far GC-IRAS has been implemented only as bench-top instrumentation for forensic applications and bulk analysis down to milli- and micro-gram quantities. In DIRAC, the use of silicon-micromachined GC columns, solid state lasers, and hollow fibers IR, will allow to develop a GC-IRAS sensor that features hand-portability and prompt response for field operation and is capable to perform both bulk analysis and trace analysis with nano-gram sensitivity.

The DIRAC sensor will further feature

a) an advanced sampling device, that separates the analyte from larger amounts of interfering materials (dust, skin particles) by electrostatic charging; and,
b), an advanced silicon micro-machined pre-concentration device, capable to treat sequentially both volatile ATS substances and non volatile ammonium salts of the amphetamines.

The main output of the DIRAC project will be a fully functional sensor prototype from sampling to read out.