Teaching old presumptive tests new digital tricks with computer vision for forensic applications

Nathalie Bugeja, Cameron Oliver, Nicole McGrath, Jake McGuire, Chunhui Yan, Felicity Carlysle-Davies, Marc Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Presumptive (or ‘spot’) tests have served forensic scientists, law enforcement, and legal practitioners for over a hundred years. Yet, the intended design of such tests, enabling quick identification of drugs by-eye, also hides their full potential. Here, we report the development and application of time-resolved imaging methods of reactions attending spot tests for amphetamines, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines. Analysis of the reaction videos helps distinguish drugs within the same structural class that, by-eye, are judged to give the same qualitative spot test result. It is envisaged that application of these results will bridge the existing suite of field and lab-based confirmatory forensic tests, and support a broader range of colorimetric sensing technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1143-1151
Number of pages9
JournalDigital Discovery
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • chemical presumptive tests
  • drug testing
  • spot tests
  • computer vision
  • forensics


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