Identification of Illicit Drugs and Hazardous Compounds with the Agilent 4500a FTIR


On-site analysis by portable FTIR systems is particularly useful since it can be used to establish probable cause, allowing for the seizure of materials for further analysis. It can also reduce the audit trail and shorten the chain of evidence, minimizing the potential for a compromised investigation.

The Agilent 4500a FTIR Spectrometer is a cost efficient solution for the analysis of counterfeit drugs, illicit drugs, and hazardous substances. In this application note, the Agilent 4500a FTIR spectrometer equipped with diamond ATR sample interface is used to rapidly identify a series of illicit drugs.

Personnel involved in border control, corporate safety, mail room and post office security, as well as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and narcotics interdiction, will find the 4500a FTIR portable spectrometer a powerful aid in their important efforts to identify white powders, unknown chemicals, explosives, and illegal drugs.

Fast, accurate analysis of unknown substances

The 4500a FTIR spectrometer enables law enforcement officials to rapidly identify chemical substances on-scene. This powerful, fully portable system measures and identifies unknown solids, pastes, gels, and liquid chemical substances.

4500a FTIR portable spectrometer advantages include:


  • Full portability for on-scene investigation or for deployment in mobile field labs
  • Rapid screening and immediate answers to provide a better representation of the magnitude of the scene and enable personnel to make actionable decisions


  • All operation and analysis functions are controlled through a handheld PDA with a simplified user interface that handles data acquisition, analysis, and result reporting. One-button analysis is provided through pre-stored methods.
  • Diamond ATR sample interface simplifies the analysis of solids and liquids while ensuring the sensor is protected against chemicals and physical abrasion.
  • Liquid and solid unknown samples are measured in less than 1 minute without any sample preparation required.


  • Analyzer optomechanical components and electronics are engineered for class leading performance and ruggedness, ensuring reliable operation and trustworthy results.
  • Uses Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, which is well established within the forensic field
  • Powerful search algorithm combined with extensive on-board database of hazardous substances and illegal drugs ensures fast accurate answers
  • Unknown substance identity and quality of match to known substance contained in database is clearly displayed.
  • Agilent Forensic Library contains the spectra of more than 13,000 biochemicals, white powders, HPV chemicals, toxic chemicals, food additives, and explosives.




Personnel involved in detecting and identifying illegal contraband including illicit street drugs, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, as well as analyzing unknown chemicals and explosives, require measurement devices that provide them with on-scene answers. The Agilent 4500a FTIR, a portable battery powered infrared spectrometer, is an accurate, cost effective means of rapidly ascertaining this information. This enables actionable decisions to be made on-the-spot with respect to evidence gathering, and helps to reduce the likelihood of a compromised investigation.


Excerpt from Agilent Technologies Application Note 5991-3068EN