MicroMole - Sewage monitoring system for tracking synthetic drug laboratories

The threat of synthetic drugs is one of the most significant current drug problems worldwide. Amphetamine-TypeStimulants (ATS) are the second most widely used drugs. Since 1990, ATS manufacturing has been reported from more than 70 countries worldwide and the figure keeps rising. In 2008, 80 % of the amphetamine production facilities dismantled worldwide were located in Europe (UNODC, 2010) (EMCCDA, 2011). Organized Crime Groups are involved in ATS large-scale production (Europol, 2007) (EMCDDA, 2009). Since 2011, the wide availability of pre-precursors (like APAAN) significantly lowered the price of the controlled precursor BMK and caused severe environmental problems, taking the problem to a greater dimension.

The aim of this project is to design, develop and test a prototype of a system for legal recording, retrieving and monitoring operations of ATS and ATS precursor laboratories in urban areas. The sensor system will be installed within the sewage system and will track waste associated to ATS production. Criminal investigators and forensic specialists will use the system in case of:

  1. initial general suspicion of ATS production in a certain area, for locating laboratories by monitoring the sewage system for long time periods;
  2. strong suspicions that in a well confined area ATS is being produced, for collecting material for forensic analysis and potential use in court, and for aiding in the planning of LEA raid operations.


The microMole prototype will contain the following features:

  • miniaturized system for 250mm sewage pipes,
  • robust housing taking into account sewage system environment,
  • minimized power consumption,
  • high-specificity electro-chemical sensors,
  • integrated micro-tanks for sample storage, and
  • secure GSM and radio communications for remote monitoring.


Analysis of privacy law, data protection and social acceptance will be carried on at different stages.

The main objective of microMole is to design and develop an autarkic sensor system – namely the microMole – which will track down the production of illicit substances by being installed in the sewage systems. The successful implementation of the project deliverable will :

  • reduce social harm linked to this criminal phenomenon,
  • have a positive effect on environmental protection,
  • curbing down the spillage of hazardous substances.


MicroMole is a joint effort of 11 consortium members:

  • Warsaw University of Technology (Poland)
  • Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police (Poland)
  • Federal Criminal Police Office (Germany)
  • Blue Technolgies (Poland)
  • CapSenze (Sweden)
  • JGK Tech-Pipeferret (Iceland)
  • Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (Germany)
  • Tilburg University (the Netherlands)
  • Ghent University (Belgium)
  • Universite Claude Bernard (France)
  • Universität der Bundeswehr (Germany)


The project is funded within the EU-Horizon 2020 program, Grant Agreement No. 653626.


 Illustration: Ring structure with sensor elements (Source: Fraunhofer-IZM)