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Scientists working on nail polish that detects date-rape drugs

By Michelle Yeomans+

26-Aug-2014
Last updated on 26-Aug-2014 at 12:59 GMT2014-08-26T12:59:24Z

Scientists working on nail polish that detects date-rape drugs

North Carolina State University is attempting to produce a nail polish that will reveal the presence of Rohypnol and GHB in a drink by changing colour.

According to the four undergraduate students studying Materials Science and Engineering at the University, the nail varnish works in a discreet way by detecting these drugs when the wearer stirs their drink with their finger. If present, the colour of their nail will change as a result.

Under the supervision of their technical adviser, Dr. Nathaniel Finney from the NCSU Chemistry Department, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Mada and Tasso Von Windheim developed the prototype in the College of Veterinary Medicine's lab space.

All four of the men personally know someone who was sexually assaulted and describe their start up as the "First Fashion Company Empowering Women To Prevent Sexual Assault".

The team was granted $11,250 from North Carolina State's Entrepreneurship Initiative that aims to develop solutions to "real world challenges".

They also received $100,000 from an investor who saw a demo of the nail polish during the K50 Startup Showcase.

Nail varnish may be more effective in detecting the drug 

“Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. “In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators," the team writes on their Facebook page.

To date, innovation around detecting Rohypnol consists of special coasters that the undergraduates argue only reveals GHB or Ketamine.

They also point out the interference of acidic beverages and milk products in terms of reliability and that the coasters take much longer to change colour than users might have expected.

In this instance, the undergraduates say that while the nail polish may be technically more challenging to work with than cardboard, it has the advantage of being more discrete for those who don’t want to make it obvious they are considering the possibility their drink might be spiked.

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