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

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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

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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