Development of a model system for the detection of new psychoactive substances using Raman spectroscopy and chemometrics

  • Calvo-Castro, Jesus (PI)

Project: Other

Project Details


New Psychoactive Substances (NPS in the following) also referred to as ‘legal highs’ or designer drugs are substances that intend to mimic or even enhance the psychoactive effects of analogues which are controlled by imposed regulations, in an attempt to bypass those. As a result, there exists an increasingly large number of analogues that make it to the market at a pace that law enforcement agencies and associated analytical scientific bodies are unable to match. Motivated by this, our group is engaged in the development of novel approaches for the detection of such substances by means of a synergic approach that employs Raman spectroscopy and chemometrics. Firstly, we have systematically classified all known NPS (>500) based on their chemical structures and selected a number of these architectures that represent in the best possible manner the structural and chemical diversity of the dataset. The Raman spectra of these so-called representatives were experimentally acquired using handheld and benchtop Raman spectrometers and the spectra subjected to chemometric analysis (Principal Component Analysis) in order to generate a model that can anticipate if a newly appearing substance is likely to be an NPS based on its Raman profile.
The main aim of the project is, underpinned by our previous and current work, to contribute towards the completion and validation of the above described model system by inclusion of a larger number of substances, giving the funded student the opportunity to work within a dynamic research group and build up his own independence through the length of the project. More precisely, the student would work alongside more senior members of the group in the addition of 15-20 new analogues to our generated model system and its subsequent validation. In addition, as a result of our work employing handheld devices, the group has developed fruitful working relationships with international manufacturers such as Rigaku Corporation. It is anticipated that the funded student will benefit from gaining further insight in the various aspects of collaborative projects involving industrial partners. The following objectives and deliverables for the proposed project have been aligned with the content and learning outcomes of the Pharmaceutical Science degree at the University of Hertfordshire. Shortlisted students have all undertaken a module during their first year, to which the applicant contributes, covering various aspects regarding the use of vibrational spectroscopy techniques for the detection of NPS.
Effective start/end date26/06/1718/08/17


  • Q Science (General)
  • Health and Wellbeing


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