Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 390, Issue 4, pp 1159–1166 | Cite as

Raman spectroscopic investigation of cocaine hydrochloride on human nail in a forensic context

  • Esam M. A. Ali
  • Howell G. M. Edwards
  • Michael D. Hargreaves
  • Ian J. Scowen
Original Paper


This study describes the application of Raman spectroscopy to the detection of drugs of abuse and noncontrolled substances used in the adulteration of drugs of abuse on human nail. Contamination of the nail may result from handling or abusing these substances. Raman spectra of pure cocaine hydrochloride, a seized street sample of cocaine hydrochloride (77%), and paracetamol could be acquired from drug crystals on the surface of the nail. An added difficulty in the analytical procedure is afforded by the presence of a nail varnish coating the nail fragment. By using confocal Raman spectroscopy, spectra of the drugs under nail varnish could be acquired. Spectra of the drugs could be readily obtained nondestructively within three minutes with little or no sample preparation. Raman spectra could be acquired from drug particles with an average size of 5–20 μm. Acquisition of Raman point maps of crystals from both pure and street samples of cocaine hydrochloride under nail varnish is also reported.


Raman spectrum and point Raman map of cocaine HCI


Cocaine hydrochloride Nail Forensics Raman spectroscopy 



The authors would like to thank the Egyptian Government for providing the financial support to Esam M.A. Ali, Dennis Farwell for technical support, and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch and the Forensic Science Service for providing the street cocaine hydrochloride sample.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esam M. A. Ali
    • 1
  • Howell G. M. Edwards
    • 1
  • Michael D. Hargreaves
    • 1
  • Ian J. Scowen
    • 1
  1. 1.Raman Spectroscopy Group, University Analytical Centre, Division of Chemical and Forensic SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK

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