Jessica Lilley

Document Type

Honors Thesis


As drug possession and manufacturing arrests continue to skyrocket within industrialized countries, law enforcement agencies need access to a simple, efficient, and accurate method of accessing guilt to aid in the backlog many agencies are facing in the judicial system. Mass Spectrometry (MS) is a commonly used technique to measure the characteristics of individual molecules that can lead to a precise identification of the compound of interest. Compared with classical matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization (MALDI) MS, strategies based on nanomaterial-assisted laser desorption-ionization (NALDI) MS generate a clean background, without noise or interference from an applied matrix, which is beneficial for the analysis of small molecules, such as street drugs. Using the street drugs Flephedrone (4-FMC), 3-Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC), Pentedrone, and 4-Methylethcathinone (4-MEC), provided by Czech Republic’s custom officials, several spectra were accumulated at varying drug concentrations. Unexpected points of oxidation with high intensity were present in NALDI MS and were confirmed through subsequent experiments of the same sample with MALDI MS and was proven to be applicable mass/charge (m/z) ratio to identify the drug through fingerprint scans at a concentration of 100 μM. The molecular structure of the unknown oxidation points was theorized for 4- MEC through the use of collision induced dissociation (CID) and elemental analysis. The mechanism is theorized to follow an enamine reaction to reach its correct molecular weight and elemental composition. In future works, the mechanism will be confirmed with further analysis for all the street drugs. Thus, the understanding of the typical peaks produced within NALDI MS could be used by law enforcement personnel to confirm drug abusers of having come into contact with the suspected drug by use of fingerprint scans at time of apprehension which can aid in reducing the work of lab officials.

Publication Date






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