PICTURES, VIDEO

Date rape drug sensor which changes colour developed by local scientists

GHB Orange, the flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB (background, left), pictured under UV light with the drug GHB (background, right), and when it was mixed into redwine without GHB (left) and with GHB (right). -- ST PHOTO: 
GHB Orange, the flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB (background, left), pictured under UV light with the drug GHB (background, right), and when it was mixed into redwine without GHB (left) and with GHB (right). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, an NUS researcher who was part of a team which developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, demonstrates the colour change under UV light when the sensor is mixed in red wine without GHB (r
Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, an NUS researcher who was part of a team which developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, demonstrates the colour change under UV light when the sensor is mixed in red wine without GHB (right) and with GHB (left). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, an NUS researcher who was part of a team which developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, demonstrates the colour change when the sensor is mixed in plain water without GHB (left) and wit
Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, an NUS researcher who was part of a team which developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, demonstrates the colour change when the sensor is mixed in plain water without GHB (left) and with GHB (right).  -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
(Left) GHB Orange, a flourescent sensor developed by NUS researchers for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks. (Right) A handphone light shines against the sensor, which is now seen in orange colour. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
(Left) GHB Orange, a flourescent sensor developed by NUS researchers for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks. (Right) A handphone light shines against the sensor, which is now seen in orange colour. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
(From left) Xu Wang, 26, Prof. Chang Young-Tae, in his 40's, and Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, NUS researchers who developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, pictured on March 25, 2014. A new sensor which can tel
(From left) Xu Wang, 26, Prof. Chang Young-Tae, in his 40's, and Dr Zhai Daunting, in her 20's, NUS researchers who developed a flourescent sensor for detecting date rape drug GHB in drinks, pictured on March 25, 2014. A new sensor which can tell if a drink has been spiked with a date rape drug has been developed by a research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A new sensor which can tell if a drink has been spiked with a date rape drug has been developed by a research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The liquid sensor changes colour when it detects the presence of the drug known as gammahydroxybutyric acid, or GHB. When mixed in a beverage that contains a concentration of GHB enough to "affect consciousness" - typically about 1 gram in 100ml - the sensor's fluorescent orange colour will fade visibly. It works in water, red wine, vodka and even cocktails like the Singapore Sling.

As the sensor cannot be ingested, a sample, which can be as little as a drop, must be taken from the drink for testing. GHB acts as a relaxant that can reduce inhibitions and even induce a coma-like sleep if taken in large amounts.

The research team, led by Professor Chang Young-Tae of NUS' Department of Chemistry, hopes that the sensor will be able to reduce instances of sexual assault of victims under the influence of GHB.

Currently still being fine-tuned, the sensor works best when viewed under ultra-violet or green light as the colour change will be most apparent.

The final form of the product has also not been finalised, but Prof Chang said that the team is working with industry partners to "develop a handy and cheap device for GHB detection". Such a device could, he said, take the form of a stirrer that contains the liquid sensor within a smaller vial. It could also take the shape of a larger device which can be connected to a mobile phone for a reading.

Prof Chang estimated the device should be available in the market within the next year.