Finger-tip biosensors


A selective finger-tip sensor for the on-site detection of cocaine  

Cocaine is one of the most abundant drugs of abuse entering Belgium, both for local consumption and for distribution all around Europe. The state of the art on-site screening method by means of color tests is difficult to interpret and these tests lack selectivity, therefore motivating the use of aptamers in our biosensor to detect cocaine with high affinity. A biosensor integrated in a glove, specifically targeted at cocaine, will allow customs to quickly screen cargo and baggage on-site, allowing for high throughput and low cost of detection.

Part (A) represents the finger exhibiting the three electrode surface screen-printed onto a flexible finger cot (bottom left), as well as a conductive gel immobilized upon the thumb (bottom right). Part (B) and (C) illustrate respectively the ‘swipe’ method of sampling to collect the target powder directly onto the electrode and the completion of the electrochemical cell by joining the index finger to the thumb coated with the gel electrolyte. Finally, the electrochemical signature of the street sample is recorded, in this case cocaine and phenacetin could be detected, phenacetin being one of the possible cutting agents.  


This project is a collaboration between the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC) and the University of Antwerp (AXES research group).

Contact and publications

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Key Publications:

  • 'Electrochemical fingerprint of street samples for fast on-site screening of cocaine in seized drug powders ', Mats De Jong et al., Chemical science, 2016, 1–7.