World’s first fluorescent sensor to detect date rape drug within seconds

9 Apr 2014. Chemistry team from NUS developed world’s first fluorescent date-rape drug sensor which change colours within seconds.

GHB and GBL are a family of date rape drugs. They are both odourless, colourless and slightly salty. Thus it is almost undetectable when mixed into a drink and which commonly used to make victims incapacitated to sexual assault. New sensors (GHB Orange and Green Date) which can tell whether a drink has been spiked with the date rape drugs has been developed. The fluorescent sensors change colours within seconds when they detect the presence of date rape drugs.

GHB Orange and Green Date are the world’s first fluorescent sensors to detect GHB and GBL, respectively. Development of the date rape drug sensors will improve the protection against drug-facilitated sexual assault. Simple devices in the form of stirrers, straws or cards-can be designed and commercialized based on the development of such sensors. The devices can then be used easily in real life to detect whether a drink has been spiked with date rape drugs.

The first fluorescent sensors for illicit date rape drugs GBL and GHB were developed and named Green Date and GHB Orange, respectively. Green Date shows high fluorescence enhancement to GBL, while GHB Orange exhibits the fluorescence quenching property for GHB. Both of the date rape drug sensors allows the detection of GBL and GHB in different drinks. The mechanisms between the sensors and the date rape drugs were explored. These discoveries may help to prevent the drug-facilitated sexual assault problems (see Figure).

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Picture of GHB Orange and Green Date. [Image credit: CHANG Young-Tae]

Reference

1. Zhai D, Agrawalla BK, Eng PSF, Lee SC, Wang X, Chang YT. "Development of a fluorescent sensor for an illicit date rape drug-GBL." Chem. Commun. 49 (2013) 6170.
2. Zhai D, Yong QET, Wang X, Chang YT. "Development of a fluorescent sensor for an illicit date rape drug-GHB." Chem. Commun. 50 (2014) 2904.