The HazMat Guys

THMG128a – Advanced Fentanyl Detection Techniques with Dr. Mark Norman of 908 Devices

It this episode, we discuss advanced fentanyl detection devices like the MX908 with Dr. Mark Norman of 908 Devices.

Complete Show Notes

00:50 Introduction to Dr. Mark Norman

  • Started back in 2001 with a company out of Danbury, CT called SensIR Technologies – known for the TravelIR, which was the first portable infrared identifier
  • TravelIR played a huge role in identifying white powders and was particularly helpful during a time of white powder scares (i.e. anthrax)
  • He’s been working with a lot of different emerging technologies over the past 16 years as they enter the field
  • Currently Director of Technical Services at 908 Devices – runs the training and customer service group
  • Also responsible for a lot of field activities with M908 and MX908 identifiers

2:00 Background on 908 Devices’ MX908

  • High-pressure mass spectrometry unit that identifies materials based on their mass patterns
  • Designed for downrange use in the hot zone – geared towards being a threat detector that lets you know what’s present
  • Trace detector, rather than a bulk one – can detect threat materials like fentanyl at very low levels
  • Works well alongside infrared, Raman, colorimetric, and other meters
  • Measures fentanyl at nanogram levels – lethal dose of fentanyl is 2 milligrams
  • Drug hunter mission mode (referred to by 908 Devices as an app)
    • Fine-tuned on both the firmware (ionization capabilities and software side
    • Uses a process called collusion-induced dissociation (CID)
      • Ionizes the fentanyl molecule and hits it with more energy to ionize it again – repeats this process until the molecule breaks apart
      • Breaks the molecule down into a bunch of fragments that are very unique from one another
      • MX908 can identify these fragments with extreme precision and accuracy

8:25 Feedback from MX908 Users

  • Especially popular in the Northeast – fentanyl epidemic here
  • Everyone says the MX908 is doing an excellent job at identifying fentanyl on the street
  • 908 Devices’ reach back service offers 24/7 support, which has also been very popular
  • Reach back team is comprised of around one dozen PhDs and chemists – they can confirm your results or provide additional information
  • Make sure you’ve downloaded the latest update that was released in December – continues to get better and better

14:00 Situational Awareness When Using Our Meters

  • On the street, we’re measuring fentanyl based on its relationship with cutting agents
  • Infrared and Raman are great for bulk identification, but they can’t see the low levels you can with mass spec
  • When we’re dealing with fentanyl, we don’t care about the cutting agent – this isn’t true with cocaine or heroin, though

18:15 Keeping Up with New Developments in the World of Fentanyl

  • There are around 1,400 potential fentanyl analogues, 600 of which are very toxic
  • There are lots of fentanyl salts out there, too, some of which are found in OTC medications
  • MX908 is indifferent to salts or other substances and only measures the free base
  • There are around a dozen fentanyl forms in the MX908’s library – there are 50-60 identifiable forms
  • One of 908 Devices’ partners is getting around 90 more fentanyl forms to add to the library
  • 908 Devices has fentanyl precursors in their library, too – these substances are very important, and we need to know how to identify them

26:20 Where to Learn More

  • Check out the fentanyl page on 908 Devices’ website – lots of helpful resources available
  • You can also find 908 Devices at major hazmat conferences

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