Block MEMS Reaches Phase II of IARPA Explosion Detection Program

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Quantum cascade laser and FTIR spectrometer developer Block MEMS LLC has been chosen for Phase II of the Intelligence Advanced Research Programs Activity (IARPA) program for the standoff detection of explosives and toxic chemical threats.

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

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

A critical achievement under Phase I was the development of a benchtop system based on quantum cascade lasers and an innovative chemical detection algorithm. The algorithm combines powerful data processing techniques, simulations of light/material interactions and modeling of anticipated detected signatures in order to eliminate the effect of clutter, reduce false alarm rates and improve limits of detection.

"I am very pleased to receive the second phase of the SILMARILS program,” said Anish Goyal, Block's vice president of technology and the principal investigator of the SILMARILS program. “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 m. 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."

"We are honored to receive this award and I am very proud of the accomplishment of the Block team under the SILMARILS program,” said Petros Kotidis, CEO of Block. “The technology being developed under this program has far reaching applications within the security markets, as it will eventually enable the highly sought-after capability of standoff detection of trace chemical threats. Ranging from protection of soft targets against explosive terrorist attacks and faster check-in lines at transportation terminals and airports, to detection of chemical warfare agents and better surveying of contaminated ground and surfaces, the SILMARILS capability will revolutionize the field of chemical security."

Block MEMS is a developer and manufacturer of high-performance quantum cascade lasers and FTIR spectrometers.

Published: January 2018
The study and measurement of spectra and their components.
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