Scientific Solutions Inc. (SSI) of North Chelmsford, Mass., was recently awarded a two-year Phase II SBIR contract by the US Army to develop a SHIELDS (spatial heterodyne interferometer for emergent line discrimination spectroscopy) device, a high-resolution spectrometer capable of detecting chemical, biological and radiological contaminants and their concentrations on a surface object, for example during military battles. The technique involves the observation of direct sunlight and sunlight absorbed and re-emitted from surface objects, such as contaminant clouds. Comparing the spectra reveals information about the type and concentration of contaminants in the object. At the heart of SHIELDS is a spatial heterodyne spectrometer (SHS) developed by SSI. The handheld unit built in Phase II will operate in real time with 100 times greater sensitivity than that of standard grating-based spectrometers and will provide simultaneous reference frames, allowing for immediate calculation and detection of contaminants, SSI said. Potential uses include gas plume detection, target and anomaly detection, surface material identification, and sensing for biological hazards in orbit as well as in battlefield and littoral (combat ship) environments. The SHS can also be used to monitor the spread of pollutants in an ecological disaster or a terrorist attack and will be applicable to planned NASA missions for use on space-based platforms. The Phase II project began in November, continuing a six-month Phase I contract.