Royal Philips Electronics NV said Thursday it has developed a handheld device that uses nanotechnology to detect marijuana, cocaine, Speed and other drugs in saliva within 2 minutes.
The Dutch company has struck a deal with Britain's Concateno PLC, Europe's largest drug testing company, to market the product to police, spokesman Steve Klink said.
He would not give an estimate for how much the product will cost, or the company's sales target. He said the potential market was as large as that for roadside alcohol tests.
"The car is stopped, a swab is taken and put in the device, and in 90 seconds you have a result," he said. "An officer could do it while standing next to the car's window."
Laws vary by country, but Klink said he expected the test would be used mostly for screening, to detect drivers probably under the influence of illicit drugs.
Philips said the device is faster and easier to use than roadside drug testing devices marketed so far using chromatography — the same technology used in pregnancy tests.
Nanotechnology allows scientists to manipulate materials at the atomic or molecular level.
The Philips device uses tiny particles that bind with drug molecules in saliva. The device then sweeps the drug-bearing molecules to a detection pad using magnetic fields, the company said.
The company expects the first deliveries to customers in the second half of 2009, starting with Britain.
Klink said the underlying technology is flexible and will be used in the future for medical tests. One use Philips is testing is to have the device detect a protein generated by damaged heart muscle. That could be used to tell whether someone suffering chest pains is having a heart attack, Klink said.