Block MEMS wins $9.8 million government contract for QCL-based standoff detection of chemical threats

The result will be detection of trace chemicals at standoff distances of at least 100 ft.

Block MEMS Wins $9.8 million government contract for QCL-based standoff detection of chemical threats
Block MEMS Wins $9.8 million government contract for QCL-based standoff detection of chemical threats
The LaserTune (left), a packaged QCL by Block Engineering, is the light source in the company's LaserWarn "trip-wire" open-path gas-sensing system (right). (Courtesy of Block Engineering)


Block MEMS (Marlborough, MA), which develops quantum cascade laser (QCL) based infrared detection systems, has been awarded a $9.8 million contract from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA; Washington, DC) to develop a system that can detect trace quantities of chemicals at standoff distances of at least 100 ft. The award is part of IARPA's Standoff Illuminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures (SILMARILS) program and is managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH).

"Standoff detection of trace chemicals, such as explosive residues, chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial materials, is a critical unmet need within the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security," say Anish Goyal, Block's VP of technology and principal investigator of the contract. "There are also many commercial applications for sensitive standoff chemical detection. Block's QCL technology combined with advanced data analytics makes it possible to meet the challenging performance goals of the SILMARILS Program."

New class of QCLs
Under this contract, Block will develop a new class of widely tunable, high-pulse energy QCLs as well as next-generation detection algorithms to detect and identify hundreds of chemicals on a wide range of surfaces. Block has previously demonstrated standoff chemical detection capability under several prior government programs, including those concerned with the detection of explosives, buried IEDs, chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial materials, and chemical clouds; this latest award aims to significantly advance the technology for use in real-world situations.

"Block has strong capabilities in developing sophisticated standoff chemical detectors and deep, decades-long understanding of infrared spectroscopy," says Petros Kotidis, CEO of Block. "We really look forward to expanding the operating envelope of our chemical detection systems through this award and providing more tools to the intelligence community and to the warfighter."

Block MEMS and Block Engineering are affiliated through common ownership and share their Marlborough, MA headquarters. For more info, visit http://www.blockeng.com.

Source: Block MEMS

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