Development of electrochemiluminescent sensors as screening tools for the identification of drug species within complex matrices for forensic investigations

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Alternative substances of abuse such as novel psychoactive substances (NPS) still pose a significant public health risk, despite increased legislative controls. Therefore, the ability to identify such substances is vital in order to limit their circulation. Current screening methods are often inadequate for NPS and incompatible with a range of complex matrices. As such, it has become necessary to develop a robust screening methodology, applicable to a range of matrices. To this extent, the development of an electrochemiluminescent (ECL) sensor is detailed within, utilising the traditional [Ru(bpy)3]2+ luminophore. The developed sensor was successfully applied for the detection of tropane alkaloids, atropine and scopolamine, at forensically and clinically relevant concentrations within commercial drink samples (tonic water and Coca-Cola®), herbal plant material and biological fluids including human serum, artificial saliva, urine and sweat. Focus was placed upon the ability of the sensor to be utilised by non-experts outwith a laboratory facility.;Hence, all analysis was performed without extraction, purification or separation strategies. The abrasive ECL technique developed, allowed direct detection of the alkaloids, following collection from a roughened skin surface and mechanical application of herbal material, without any surface damage or signal detriment observed. Finally, increased specificity was coined through the development of pH controlled ECL, which facilitated the detection and quantification of scopolamine, in the presence of atropine through suppression of its emission. This provided greater specificity previously unachievable with single luminophore ECL analysis.
Date of Award1 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorLynn Dennany (Supervisor) & Pamela Allan (Supervisor)

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