CUSTOM – EU-project

Law enforcement agencies world-wide are keenly aware that chemical control is a crucial element to controlling the manufacture and distribution of illegal narcotics and synthetic substances. For this purpose one need components able to perform chemical identifications in contexts such as custom offices are needed, where inspection of trucks, cars, containers, as well as people and baggage is required.

Such components should be assembled as simple machine to be employed on-field by custom officers with no specific skill. Thus detection approach should use established techniques so that processing of rough data by means of the incorporated software tool can provide unambiguous response. A large number of techniques have been developed in the latest decades, which are able to screen and identify specific molecules even at very low concentration in lab testing.

Nevertheless the objective to build up a system which proves to be easy to use, compact, able to provide screening over a large number of compounds and discriminate them with low false alarm (FA) and high probability of detection (POD) is still an open issue. Detection methodologies can be grouped in three main categories : point detection, stand-off detection, lab instrumentation.

The CUSTOM project will focus on the point detection methodologies due to its applicability in custom, airport and harbour check point scenarios. Here a number of different non-invasive hand held chemical sensors available in the market have been considered and compared with the expected features of the CUSTOM product. All of the analyzed commercial sensors have not been developed specifically for the drug precursor detection, but rather for explosive, drugs and chemical threats detection. All of them are mainly based on Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS), Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW), Gas Chromatography or Raman Spectroscopy.

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This project is supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.