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Monitoring the Clandestine Synthesis of Methamphetamine in Real-time with Ambient Sampling Portable Mass Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Analytical Methods Volume: 7 Dated: 2015 Pages: 7156-7163
Date Published
8 pages

This article reports on a project that used a portable MS system coupled with simplified DESI, PSI, and APCI ionization sources to monitor two common synthetic routes for clandestine methamphetamine production and screen representative evidence types resulting from these installations. 



The collection, transport, and processing of evidence found at clandestine laboratory installations is a challenging task for forensic practitioners, since samples are often of high magnitude and complexity, as well as located in unsafe conditions. Direct sampling, portable mass spectrometers coupled with ambient ionization methods have been reported for forensic applications and have the potential to fulfill the requirements of clandestine laboratory evidence processing, allowing on-site identification of chemical evidence in its native state and expediting criminal investigations. In the current project, specific evidence examined in the studies included bulk powdered precursor and product, reaction intermediate slurries, and gaseous headspace of used solvents emanating from storage media and reaction vessels. Of note, the harsh, complicated nature of the collected samples did not affect molecular identification. Comparison studies between the employed ionization methods showed that the analysis of evidence via PSI was marked by enhanced spectral intensity  compared to DESI. Results obtained during this study demonstrate the ability of ambient sampling, portable MS instrumentation to conclusively identify a clandestine methamphetamine operation regardless of the synthesis stage. (publisher abstract modified)



Date Published: January 1, 2015