Improving the Analysis of Fentanyl and Related Synthetic Opioids: Alternate Derivatization Approaches for their Enhanced Detection by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

Carlos Valdez | 21-FS-036

Project Overview

This work involves the discovery of chemical modifications, along with novel reagents to carry them out, that can selectively modify fentanyl and other synthetic opioids for their detection and identification by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometric (GC-MS) methods in a lab- or field-related scenario. Currently, there are no methods for the derivatization of fentanyl and congeners due to their exceptional stability and chemical inertness. To address this gap, our team has discovered the reaction between a chloroformate and fentanyl that results in the formation of a product that possesses part of the original fentanyl but also possesses a chemical tag that makes its detection and unambiguous identification by GC-MS possible. The results are significant in the field of opioid analysis as they provide an alternative method for their detection by analytical means. Due to the centrality of the chemical transformation, the results described in this work offer the option of other chloroformates that can be employed. The importance of this technology is high as there are no current approaches that are similar or identical to the work carried out.

Mission Impact

This project is in complete alignment with the mission associated with the Forensic Science Center (FSC) and the Nuclear and Chemical Sciences Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The project will support the mission of developing innovative new forensic techniques for the detection of chemical threats in real time and on the field and provide protection to our armed forces as well as civilian populations affected by an event involving such threat. Other agencies that would benefit from the work described herein are agencies involved in the intelligence community, department of homeland security (DHS) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).