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Raman Scanners to Aid Drug Busts

June 2010
Raman Scanners to Aid Drug Busts

Inspector Raman costs $1500, but the good news for police squads is that this inspector requires just one payment, not multiple paychecks.

Yes, Inspector Raman is a gadget. Made by DeltaNu, this portable spectrometer has drawn attention for its ability to detect as many as 100 drugs. Laser beams emitted by the device react with molecules, resulting in a scattering visual pattern called the Raman effect—which helps in the analysis of the substance, be it cocaine or cannabis. Each drug has its own pattern, allowing easy identification. Police departments across the U.S. plan to use these Raman gadgets once the testing is done. While the first handheld spectrometer, which came out in 2004, weighed less than five pounds, the current model is not more than 13 ounces, making it a sleek and easy-to-use zapper for drug busters. The Reporter, a recent model, can fit in the palm of one’s hand.

What’s more, in a decade or less, with improvements in Raman technology, a versatile device could become available for $5000, according to The Atlantic. “Researchers at Stanford University are experimenting with it as a non-invasive tool to diagnose breast, lung, and other cancers,” adds Louise Levathes in that magazine. “River Diagnostics, in Rotterdam, is marketing a bacteria-strain analyzer to identify pathogens in real time and combat hospital-acquired infections. Diabetics may someday be able to monitor their glucose without poking themselves to get a drop of blood. Allergy sufferers may be able to instantly detect which pesky pollens are in the air and respond accordingly.”

Sir C.V. Raman, who discovered the Raman effect through his experiments in the diffraction of light, won the physics Nobel Prize in 1930.

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