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…of a recent paper from the RSC’s Analyst, followed by the tagline ‘tuppence-based SERS for the detection of illicit materials’.
In the paper, scientists from Manchester explain how they used a UK two pence piece (a.k.a. tuppence) to do some drug detection work!
Royston Goodacre and team from University of Manchester altered the surface of a copper two pence piece with silver to make it suitable for the vibrational spectroscopic technique surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), which they then used to differentiate between the drugs: 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone), 5,6-methylenedioxy-2-aminoindane (MDAI) and 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA).
The team made up methanolic solutions of the drugs, soaked the coins in the solutions (the drugs bind to the rough surface) before running SERS on it.
SERS usually works on thin roughened films, but the team says that these are expensive, with the most complex needing specialist equipment to prepare. Their aim in this case was to find a substrate that was cheap and accessible, providing a robust surface that can be used by non-specialists.
US coins have been used for SERS recently to detect melamine in infant formula, but the elemental composition differs from UK coins, say the researchers. It’s this difference in metallic composition that can affect the morphology of deposited silver and SERS enhancement, they add. So, finding the right coin can be tricky. And the team was restricted to pre-1992 coins as these contain 97% copper, unlike the post-1992 coins that are composed of copper-plated steel.
Well, that’s one thing I never thought of doing with my loose change!