Device and method for rapid field identification of illicit substances and mixtures (idPAD)

Tech ID: 20-043

Inventors: Marya Lieberman, Tracy-Lynn Lockwood, Jessica Zinna

Date Added: June 23, 2020


An easy to use, reliable, and valid rapid field drug test.

Technology Summary

20 043 Graphic

Illicit drug identification is important and necessary for first responder and law enforcement professionals. Identifying illicit substances allows first responders to provide the proper treatment in the instance of an overdose and law enforcement professionals to quickly and accurately differentiate between legal and illegal substances. Currently, color test “pouches” are most commonly used by law enforcement when they seize suspect substances, but the pouches only identify common street drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Street drugs contain many unregulated substances, adulterants, and cutting agents which aren’t recognized by current drug detection technologies. This frequently results in false positives, so the reliability of field tests is under scrutiny. Other technologies are able to discriminate between a suite of drugs but are very costly. There exists an increasing interest in the production of a reliable and economical field test for illicit substances.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have created a paper analytical device (idPAD), composed of 12 different color tests, each designed to recognize specific functional groups found in substances of abuse. The 12 tests are run simultaneously which creates a colored barcode that can be compared and identified using an image library created from archived photos of other idPAD test results, thus reducing the chances of false positives. The simultaneous nature of the tests allows for analyzing drug mixtures that contain various illicit compounds and cutting agents which can be used to track supply chains in different areas. Composed of enzymes and dried reagents, the idPAD facilitates a safer and easier identification process. The use of enzymes is novel and paves the way for detection of sugars used as cutting agents. The idPAD is inexpensive, requires no electricity or expertise and shows promise as a field drug test.

Market Advantages

  • Costs <$2 per idPAD
  • Pure and diluted samples of cocaine HCl, heroin, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine identified with 95% sensitivity and 100% specificity
  • Differentiate four common street illicit drugs from 64 distractor substances and cutting agents
  • False positive rate is ~0.1% (compared to pouch test which is ~21%)


  • Law enforcement narcotics, including criminalists lab and field analysis of unknown or seized substances
  • Supply chain tracking of illicit products
  • Harm reduction groups/first responders
  • Food product analysis

Technology Readiness Level

TRL 4 – Lab Validation


idPAD: Paper Analytical Device for Presumptive Identification of Illicit Drugs. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.14318

Enzyme-based paper test for detection of lactose in illicit drugs. doi:10.1039/C9AY02459J


Richard Cox