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Title: Sub-Part-Per-Billion Level Sensing of Fentanyl Residues from Wastewater Using Portable Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Sensing
Detection of illicit drug residues from wastewater provides a new route toward community-level assessment of drug abuse that is critical to public health. However, traditional chemistry analytical tools such as high-performance liquid chromatography in tandem with mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) cannot meet the large-scale testing requirement in terms of cost, promptness, and convenience of use. In this article, we demonstrated ultra-sensitive and portable surface-enhanced Raman scattering sensing (SERS) of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, from sewage water and achieved quantitative analysis through principal component analysis and partial least-squares regression. The SERS substrates adopted in this application were synthesized by in situ growth of silver nanoparticles on diatomaceous earth films, which show ultra-high sensitivity down to 10 parts per trillion in artificially contaminated tap water in the lab using a commercial portable Raman spectrometer. Based on training data from artificially contaminated tap water, we predicted the fentanyl concentration in the sewage water from a wastewater treatment plant to be 0.8 parts per billion (ppb). As a comparison, the HPLC-MS confirmed the fentanyl concentration was below 1 ppb but failed to provide a specific value of the concentration since the concentration was too low. In addition, we further proved the validity of our SERS sensing technique by comparing SERS results from multiple sewage water treatment plants, and the results are consistent with the public health data from our local health authority. Such SERS sensing technique with ultra-high sensitivity down to sub-ppb level proved its feasibility for point-of-care detection of illicit drugs from sewage water, which is crucial to assess public health.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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