University of Illinois at Chicago
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Development of Microcrystal Tests for Butylone, Ethylone, and Methylone Detection

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posted on 2017-11-01, 00:00 authored by Shan Mei Jones
Microcrystal tests are a microchemistry technique developed in the 1800’s. Recently, they have been used more frequently in forensic science to help identify drugs of abuse, such as amphetamine and cocaine. Microcrystal tests are advantageous due to relatively short analysis time, small sample quantity used during test, and little to no sample preparation. Since microcrystal tests have only recently started to be used in forensic science again, validated methods are required, before they can be used. While microcrystal tests have been developed for many common drugs of abuse, newer drugs of abuse do not have validated tests, among which are the synthetic cathinones. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to develop microcrystal tests that could detect butylone, ethylone, and methylone, through optical characteristics of precipitated crystals. Synthetic cathinones, street name “Bath Salts”, are newer drugs of abuse that are man-made compounds similar to cathinone. They have become more prominent on the illegal drug market since 2010. Cathinone is a naturally occurring compound found in khat (Catha edulis) leaves. Since cathinone, and subsequently synthetic cathinones, is a stimulant, increased euphoria, alertness, sexual arousal, sociability, concentration, and motivation can occur upon administration. Since 2010, synthetic cathinones have become more prominent on the illegal drug market; signifying, validated microcrystal tests could be beneficial. Microcrystal tests were successfully developed to detect butylone, ethylone, and methylone individually and in the presence of adulterants. Each test utilized either pricrolonic or picric acid as the reagent. All three drugs were identified by precipitation of rosettes. Methylone formed rosettes with both reagents. All four crystals are distinguishable either by reagent used or optical properties. Also, attenuated total reflectance-infrared spectroscopy was performed on each drug and butylone and methylone crystals precipitated from picrolonic acid, for reference purposes. These tests are unique since no other drug is known to produce the same crystals and optical characteristics with these reagents; thus, they are good options for use in forensic science.



Larsen, Karl


Larsen, Karl



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Committee Member

Hall, Ashley Schlemmer, Francis King, Meggan

Submitted date

August 2017

Issue date


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