Stabilization of formaldehyde into polydimethylsiloxane composite: application to the in situ determination of illicit drugs

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2019 Apr;411(10):2141-2148. doi: 10.1007/s00216-019-01644-1. Epub 2019 Feb 23.


The Marquis test is the most frequently used spot color assay for the screening of unknown drugs such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine, 3,4-metilenedioxymethamphetamine, and morphine. However, this test involves the use of the toxic reagent formaldehyde, as well as the manipulation of concentrated sulfuric acid. Here, we report a new format of this test that improves the sustainability and safety for the operator by immobilizing formaldehyde into a polydimetylsiloxane composite. In contact with a solution (or suspension) of the suspected sample in sulfuric acid, the dispositive delivers formaldehyde and the reaction takes place in a few seconds. Under the proposed conditions, only small amounts of the drug (μg) are necessary to produce intense changes of color. In addition, the percentage of the drug in the sample can be established by obtaining pictures of the test vials and subsequent analysis of the digitalized images. The responses were linear for amphetamine-like drugs up to a concentration of 100 mg L-1, and the precision achieved was adequate (relative standard deviations, RSDs < 10%). The developed composites were tested for the determination of MDMA in several drug street samples, and a good correlation with the results obtained by a reference method based on liquid chromatography was found. The main advantages of the proposed approach over the traditional Marquis test format are better portability and safety for the operator at a lower cost and the possibility of using it for quantitative analysis.

Keywords: Digital images colorimetry; Drug street samples; Harm reduction; In situ analysis; Polydimethylsiloxane.

MeSH terms

  • Colorimetry / methods
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes / chemistry*
  • Formaldehyde / chemistry*
  • Hallucinogens / analysis*
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Limit of Detection
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / analysis*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*


  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Hallucinogens
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Formaldehyde
  • baysilon
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine