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Strategies for Trace Detection of Fentalogs - Archival
This webinar provides strategies & considerations for the trace detection of fentanyl and its analogs. The focus will be on TD-DART-MS and IMS analysis as well as understanding the fate of fentanyl residues that are exposed to different environments.
Original Live Webinar took place on 10/26/2017.

Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs pose a significant and ever-changing threat in the United States as both pure compounds and in complex mixtures.  While commonly considered detection techniques require visible amounts of powder (i.e. color tests or GC/MS analysis), trace detection and identification methods present both a unique opportunity and a unique set of challenges. Rapid detection of non-visible residues containing fentanyl, or similar compounds, can be extremely useful in minimizing exposure of law enforcement at scenes, assessing public health implications, triaging evidence in forensic laboratories, and intelligence gathering.  For trace detection to be successful the technique needs to be rapid, specific, capable of handling complex background matrices, and minimize the risk of exposure to the analyst.  There also must be confidence that a detectable level of residue exists on the surface and remains present on the surface after exposure to the environment.  This webinar will highlight two potential tools for the trace detection of fentanyl and NPS residues, thermal desorption direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (TD-DART-MS) and ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) while also providing context to the issues of expected residue contamination levels and environmental stability.

The two techniques discussed in this webinar, TD-DART-MS and IMS, have different performance and analytical metrics and potential operational uses.  IMS, which is commonly encountered in trace contraband detection scenarios (i.e. airport security screening), offers a small, more cost-effective, portable instrument with rapid detection capabilities.  Though portable and easy to operate, the resolution of these machines is typically not sufficient to differentiate one fentanyl analog from another, leading to detection of a non-specific fentanyl analog.  This type of information may be sufficient for presumptive testing or making health and safety decisions.  TD-DART-MS, however, offers a lower sensitivity, greater resolution (able to differentiate most analogs), more rapid analysis at a higher cost.  Traditionally used in forensic drug screening analyses, TD-DART-MS is poised to address many detection capabilities required for analytical or forensic laboratories settings, where the identity of the analog is of importance.  Analytical metrics of both techniques will be discussed. 

While trace detection techniques sound appealing, they commonly lack the chromatographic separation of common bulk analysis techniques (i.e. GC/MS).  Because of this, these techniques are required to simultaneously analyze all compounds in the sample. Due to the prevalence of complex mixtures containing heroin, multiple fentanyl analogs, and cutting agents in many forensic cases, it is crucial to understand the effects of these components on the ability to detect fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.  Additionally, it is important to understand what effect background contaminants, such as dirt or fingerprints, may have on the ability to detect the compounds of interest. This webinar will discuss results from studies that address these complex mixtures to better understand the limitations of strengths of these techniques for trace detection.

Learning Objectives

•	Understand the analytical capabilities and weaknesses of TD-DART-MS and IMS analysis of fentalogs
•	Learn what factors need to be considered when trace detection is desired (i.e. safety, exposure, complexity of samples)
•	Understand the stability of trace residues of fentanyl and its analogs under differing environmental conditions

This webinar was recorded in its entirety at the time of the Live event in order to capture the one on one interaction with the presenter.  Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence event has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.


Dr. Ed Sisco
He has been a research chemist in the Surface and Trace Chemical Analysis Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology since 2014.