Jan 05, 2021

Scientists Create Polymers to Detect Banned Substances in Wastewater

Molecularly imprinted polymers are helping detect banned substances in wastewater. 


Molecularly imprinted polymers, created with the participation of a SUSU scientist, have become a base for a unique sensor which detects banned substances in wastewater. 

According to Phys.org, police forces in European countries have shown interest in this development. The system allows authorities to search for laboratories creating synthetic amphetamine drugs. 

An international team, including SUSU Senior Research Fellow Natalia Beloglazova, were tasked with detecting the traces of drugs in wastewater created in illicit drug laboratories, reported Phys.org.  Scientists designed an automated sensor system which is now the base of the Micromole project. This project is part of the Horizon 2020 program for research and innovation of the European Union, added Phys.org.

Horizon 2020 is the EU's funding program for research and innovation, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years, according to the EU. 


“Horizon 2020 couples research and innovation, and has an emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges,” said the EU website.

The results of the research on creating the polymers have been published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

"Due to its simplicity, Leuckart synthesis is the most popular method of producing amphetamine,” said Natalia Beloglazova. “The well-known benzyl methyl ketone is reduced to N-formylamphetamine, and then it is hydrolysed to a relevant amphetamine salt. After an alkaline compound is added, the salt turns into an amphetamine free base, which can be transported as a liquid to different countries or continents. The waste from the Leuckart reaction contain certain specific markers indicative of amphetamine synthesis. That is why we've been designing chemical sensors to identify certain amphetamine markers.”

The team of scientists from Russia, Belgium and Poland studied the synthesis of highly selective, molecularly imprinted polymers for benzyl methyl ketone, which is one of the amphetamine markers. The polymers were used to create capacitive sensors for wastewater monitoring, reported Phys.org.

Researchers were specifically studying the efficiency of the created polymers in Berlin, with access to the city's sewage system. 

The use of the created sensor based on the designed polymers is a subject of interest to the police forces of several European countries dealing with the illicit drug industry, reported Phys.org, including: Poland, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Read related content about contaminants: