Analyzing fentanyl and fentanyl analogues by ion mobility spectrometry

  • Hafid Zaknoun
  • Marie-Josée Binette
  • Maggie TamEmail author
Technical Report


Illegal drugs are among the multitude of goods examined by customs officers at the border. With the emergence of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, the goal of field detection of drugs becomes two-fold: to interdict illegal drug movement and to assist in the protection of the health and safety of frontline officers. This work reports a study of nine fentanyl-related substances (acetylfentanyl, benzoylfentanyl, beta-hydroxythiofentanyl, butyrylfentanyl, carfentanil, despropionylfentanyl, fentanyl, furanylfentanyl and parafluoroisobutyrylfentanyl) using a commercial off-the-shelf ion mobility spectrometer (COTS IMS) and the results from analyzing 84 seized samples containing fentanyl-related substances. The results showed that the COTS IMS was capable of detecting the presence of programmed fentanyl-related substances. Unprogrammed fentanyl-related substances were detected, however no alarm was generated and the information was accessible via the advanced user mode only. The COTS IMS was not able to distinguish between several pairs of substances with similar reduced mobility values. During this study, six fentanyl analogues were intercepted by our laboratory for the first time (2-isopropylfuranylfentanyl, 2-methoxyfuranylfentanyl, 2-methfuranylfentanyl, 4-chlorofuranylfentanyl, cyclopropylfentanyl and methoxyacetylfentanyl) and their reduced mobility values are presented herein.


IMS Field detection Fentanyl Fentanyl analogues Synthetic opioids 



The authors would like to thank the Contraband Analysis Section of the Canada Border Services Agency for conducting laboratory analyses of the seized samples used in this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Engineering Directorate, Canada Border Services AgencyOttawaCanada

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