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If you have cash on you, you’re have cocaine on you. That’s what new research that uses a special helium-based testing technology suggests.

In August of 2009, Dr. Yuegang Zuo of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth presented the findings of his study at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. His study tested for the presence of cocaine on paper money from around the world and was the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind at the time.

Zuo found cocaine on 90 percent of all paper money tested from the United States, with even higher percentages in major cities like Washington, D.C., where full 95 percent of bills contained cocaine.

Building upon Zuo’s findings, researchers at Indiana University (IU) are currently using a helium-based mass spectrometer to test for bacteria and other substances, including cocaine and even explosives.

IU PhD candidate Andrew Storey told Barbara Brosher of Indiana public media last month, “When it’s tuned correctly, we’ve never not found cocaine [on paper money].”

The helium, which glows bright purple when in use, helps generate a near-instantaneous energy exchange that allows the mass spectometer to detect the presence of different elements.

In the past it would have taken hours to get results for a test like this, but with the helium-based method, detection and results can be obtained in mere seconds. And unlike older testing methods, the helium-based source does not destroy the currency.

Cocaine detection- yet another unexpected use for helium!

Check out these 15 surprising uses for helium that we’d bet you didn’t know existed either, including in your smartphone, computer, car, and the very Internet you’re reading this on!

Need helium? Get a free helium quote from Zephyr Solutions

Sources: Indiana Public Media, American Chemical Society