Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Can Nail Polish Prevent Date Rape?

August 26, 2014
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Can Nail Polish Prevent Date Rape?
A new nail polish product may become a secret weapon against date rape. Mireya Acierto/Getty Images
Four students at North Carolina State University believe their invention will help make college campuses safer.

As young adults across the country head to college this month, they might be worried about more than just getting to class on time. That’s because the Washington Post analyzed the most recent federal campus crime data available and found over 3,900 reports of sexual assaults on American college campuses in 2012. These statistics, coupled with the probability that such crimes are massively underreported, are disturbing, to say the least.

But four North Carolina State University students are developing an innovative product that might bring some peace of mind: a nail polish that changes color when it detects the presence of the date rape drugs, such as Xanax, Rohypnol or GHB in a drink.

How does it work? If the wearer uses her (or his) finger to stir their drink, the polish will change color if any of these drugs are present.

The team of invetors, which consists of Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim, are currently raising funds for research and development of the nail polish. According to Lauren K. Ohnesorge of the Triangle Business Journal, a securities filing indicates that they’ve already raised $100,000 from one investor, with the goal of ultimately collecting $250,000.

Back in April, these students won the Lulu eGames, which is sponsored by NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, with their invention. Next they applied to present their startup idea at this fall’s Kairos Global Summit, and earlier this month, made it to the semi-finals.

The young entrepreneurs are keeping mum about when their product will be available, but the idea has already generated widespread interest.

Other products already exist for detecting date rape drugs, including Drink Safe’s testing coasters, and the pd.id, a battery-powered gadget that indicates the presence of drugs when immersed in a beverage, but none of them have the ease of use as nail polish. After all, if it works, Undercover Colors has the advantage of offering users one less thing to carry. Plus, since the polish is invisible, it will likely deter would-be attackers from even trying to spike someone’s drinks since they wouldn’t know who might be wearing it.

As the inventors behind Undercover Colors write on their Facebook page, “In the U.S., 18% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. We may not know who they are, but these women are not faceless. They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends. While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection. Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

MORE: The Innovative Blood-Drawing Technique That’s Pain-Free and Saves Money

 

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