Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that can be readily made using commercially available ingredients. Meth usage cost the United States $23.4 billion in 2010 due to increased funding for healthcare, law enforcement, and cleanup procedures.
While the damage the drug does to users is well known, meth also poses a risk to law enforcement and emergency first responders who uncover meth labs, the clandestine “kitchens” where the drug is “cooked.”
The DEA reported 11,239 meth lab seizures last year alone. These labs are often set up in homes, motels, trailers, and rental properties. Residue from meth production can also harm people who unknowingly purchase homes where a meth lab has been in operation.
A meth lab is messy, producing a slew of noxious fumes. These labs are costly for taxpayers; law enforcement experts estimate that it costs an average of $2,000 to clean up a lab.
Vaporsens is developing a hand-held sensor that deploys nanofibers (incredibly small fibers) and electronics to help law enforcement and border security personnel quickly “sniff out” meth and related substances in homes, vehicles, and at America’s borders.
The nanofibers form a mesh that acts like a spider web that catches narcotic molecules. The nanofiber web rivals a dog’s nose for speed, sensitivity, and range, says Vaporsens’ Ben Rollins.
“I recently visited the Port of Nogales on the Arizona border,” says Rollins. “An official there said that a narcotics sniffer like ours would be a Godsend. There is currently no available technology that can detect narcotics in ambient air.”
Vaporsens’ prototyping and product development efforts have been supported by seed grants from USTAR and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “We’ve added three full-time equivalent jobs with the help of the state. We’re poised for further funding and growth,” Rollins remarks.