Polymorphism of Bis(benzimidazole)bis(thiocyanato-N)cobalt(II) and Its Relevance to Studies of the Chief Color Test for Cocaine
Journal article, 2024

Cobalt(II) thiocyanate-based tests are routinely used to screen cocaine products, with the formation of a blue species interpreted as a positive response. Two popular candidates for the origin of the blue color are an ionic coordination compound, frequently referred to as an ion pair, of the general form (HL)2[Co(SCN)4] or the coordination compound [CoL2(SCN)2], where L represents select nitrogenous bases. Given the high number of nitrogenous bases documented to yield false positives for cobalt(II) thiocyanate-based tests, a reasonable hypothesis is that both candidates are possible but their preferential formation depends on the specific nitrogenous bases screened. This hypothesis was tested through the crystallographic and spectroscopic analysis of reaction products of cocaine hydrochloride, lidocaine monohydrate hydrochloride, and benzimidazole exposed to a classic cobalt(II) thiocyanate reagent. Single-crystal X-ray diffraction revealed that the blue product isolated from benzimidazole test vessels is a coordination compound, with comparative ultraviolet–visible and Raman spectroscopy validating that blue precipitates collected from cocaine hydrochloride and lidocaine monohydrate hydrochloride reaction containers are ionic coordination compounds. Peaks corresponding to π-π* transitions in UV-vis at around 320 nm (cocaine hydrochloride: 320 nm, lidocaine hydrochloride: 323 nm) shift to a higher wavelength of 332 nm for the coordinated benzimidazole, and the broader d-d transitions at 550–630 nm show both a shift and change in envelope for benzimidazole coordinated with cobalt(II). The compound is a new polymorph of bis(benzimidazole)bis(thiocyanato-N)Cobalt(II), γ-[Co(Hbzim)2(SCN)2] (Hbzim = benzimidazole), and the differences in the intermolecular interactions to the two previous polymorphs were clarified by graph set analysis and Hirshfeld surface analysis. Furthermore, the coordination of aromatic nitrogen bases (such as benzimidazole) with Co(II) and aliphatic bases was compared by analyzing the Cambridge Structural Database, and the aromatic bases were found to have a shorter Co-N bond length compared to the aliphatic bases by around 0.02 Å.

color tests


X-ray diffraction

cobalt thiocyanate

Hirshfeld surface analysis

Raman spectroscopy

graph set analysis

ultraviolet–visible (UV–vis) spectroscopy


Raychelle Marie Burks

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry

American University

Francoise Mystere Amombo Noa

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Lars Öhrström

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry


23046740 (eISSN)

Vol. 12 1 28

Subject Categories

Inorganic Chemistry

Analytical Chemistry



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2/2/2024 8