Monitoring the clandestine synthesis of methamphetamine in real-time with ambient sampling, portable mass spectrometry
The collection, transport and processing of evidence found at clandestine laboratory installations is a challenging task for forensic practitioners, as samples are often of high magnitude and complexity, as well as located in exceedingly unsafe conditions. Direct sampling, portable mass spectrometers coupled with ambient ionization methods have been reported for forensic applications and have the potential to fulfill the requirements of clandestine laboratory evidence processing, allowing on-site identification of chemical evidence in its native state and expediting criminal investigations. To demonstrate this potential, a portable MS system coupled with simplified DESI, PSI, and APCI ionization sources, was utilized to monitor two common synthetic routes for clandestine methamphetamine production and screen representative evidence types resulting from these installations. Specific evidence examined in these studies included bulk powdered precursor and product, reaction intermediate slurries, and gaseous headspace of utilized solvents emanating from storage media and reaction vessels. Of note, the harsh, complicated nature of the collected samples did not affect molecular identification. Comparison studies between the employed ionization methods showed that the analysis of evidence via PSI was marked by enhanced spectral intensity in comparison to DESI. Results obtained during this study demonstrate the ability of ambient sampling, portable MS instrumentation to conclusively identify a clandestine methamphetamine operation regardless of the synthesis stage.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Emerging Investigators