A device which potentially can see one molecule though a simple optical system and can analyse its component within minutes was developed by scientists, working with colleagues from Aix-Marseille University.
This uses plasmonics - the study of vibrations of electrons in different materials.
The breakthrough could allow for rapid and more accurate drug testing for professional athletes as it could detect the presence of even trace amounts of a substance.
It could also be used at airports or other high-security locations to prevent would-be terrorists from concealing explosives or traffickers from smuggling drugs.
Another possible use could be detecting viruses people might be suffering from.
Graphene, isolated for the first time at the University of Manchester in 2004, has the potential to revolutionise diverse applications from smartphones and ultrafast broadband to drug delivery and computer chips.
It has the potential to replace existing materials, such as silicon, but University of Manchester researchers believe it could truly find its place with new devices and materials yet to be invented.
The researchers, lead by Dr Sasha Grigorenko, suggested a new type of sensing devices: artificial materials with topological darkness. The devices show extremely high response to an attachment of just one relatively small molecule. This high sensitivity relies on topological properties of light phase.
To test their devices, researches covered them with graphene. They then introduced hydrogen onto the graphene, which allowed them to calibrate their devices with far superior sensitivity than with any other material.
Testing for toxins or drugs could be done using a simple blood test, with highly-accurate results in minutes. The researchers found that the sensitivity of their devices is three orders of magnitude better than that of existing models.
The academics, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, hope the research will show the practical applications from an emerging area of research - singular optics.
The study is published in the journal Nature Materials.