Block MEMS awarded phase II of $10.7 million IARPA contract to detect explosives and other threats

The resulting instrument will detect chemical-warfare agents, explosives, and drugs such as the dangerous opioid fentanyl.

Block MEMS (Marlborough, MA) has been awarded Phase II of the Intelligence Advanced Research Programs Activity (IARPA) program for the standoff detection of explosives and toxic chemical threats. Block was chosen for Phase II in a competitive down-selection process.

Under Phase I, Block demonstrated the ability to detect trace quantities of explosives and other threats on multiple surfaces at 1 and 5 meter standoff distances in a few seconds.

A critical achievement under Phase I has been the development of a benchtop system based on quantum-cascade lasers (QCLs) and a novel chemical detection algorithm. The algorithm combines data-processing techniques, simulations of light/material interactions, and modeling of anticipated detected signatures to eliminate the effect of clutter, reduce false-alarm rates, and improve limits of detection.

The IARPA program is called "Standoff Illuminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures" (SILMARILS). The contract value of the program is now at $10.7 million. The program is managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH).

"The achievements of the previous phase have taken a significant step towards the ultimate goal of the SILMARILS program to be able to detect explosives and other chemicals at standoff distances of 30 and 50 meters," says Anish Goyal, Block's VP of technology and principal investigator of the SILMARILS program at Block. "The ability to not only detect chemical-warfare agents (CWAs), but explosives and pharmaceutical based agents (such as fentanyl) as well at these standoff distances is addressing a strong need within the intelligence community, the Defense Department, and the Department of Homeland Security."

Source: Block MEMS

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