A team of City University researchers have developed an analysis method that they say could make drug tests cheaper, quicker and more reliable. Variations of the method - which uses acrylic resin, a type of plastic - can test blood, hair or saliva samples, the team say. It can also be adapted to detect pesticides in vegetables, pollutants in water and toxins in fish. The news comes about a month ahead of voluntary drug-test trials in Tai Po schools and as the government is working to develop testing and certification as a key industry. 'It's very easy to perform the test - even a senior secondary student can handle it,' lead researcher Professor Michael Lam Hon-wah, of CityU's biology and chemistry department, said yesterday. 'Molecular imprinting will be an important technology in the near future.' Lam said that some mainland companies had asked about applying the technology, which could detect environmental contaminants, to the testing of fireworks and medicine. The plastic device could give a result within one minute and required little skill to operate, Lam said. The cost was about one-tenth that of using sophisticated scientific instruments in laboratories. Lam said that because of the inert characteristics of acrylic resin, analyses made with the new technology were less likely to be faked. Conventional devices could be made to lose their function if the sample was laced with chemicals to destroy antibodies, which were susceptible to changes in temperature or acidity, he said. The university is applying to patent the technology, which took two years and HK$300,000 to develop. Lam said the team had also developed an easy means of detecting the toxin tributyltin chloride - a colourless liquid used in rat poison - which was difficult to detect in the past. He demonstrated by mixing acrylic resin powder with alcohol. The red solution turned into a fluorescent yellow under ultraviolet light after a drop of tributyltin chloride was added. A shortcoming of that method was that it could not show the amount of the toxin present, he said.