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Chemical detectionBlock MEMS awarded $9.8M contract for standoff detection of chemical threats

Published 19 July 2016

Block MEMS, a developer of Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL)-based infrared detection systems, has been awarded a $9.8 million contract from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop a system that can detect trace quantities of chemicals at standoff distances of at least 100 ft.

Block MEMS, a developer of Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL)-based infrared detection systems, has been awarded a $9.8 million contract from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop a system that can detect trace quantities of chemicals at standoff distances of at least 100 ft. Block MEMS notes that 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 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Dr. Anish Goyal, Block’s VP of Technology and Principal Investigator of the contract, commented, “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. 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.”

Under this contract, Block will develop a new class of widely tunable, high-pulse energy Quantum Cascade Lasers and also next-generation detection algorithms to detect and identify hundreds of chemicals on a wide range of surfaces. Block says it has previously been successful in demonstrating standoff chemical detection capability under several prior government programs and this award will significantly advance the technology for use in real-world situations.

Dr. Petros Kotidis, CEO of Block, added, “Block is very pleased to receive this award and grateful to IARPA for their confidence in our technologies and products. Block has strong capabilities in developing sophisticated standoff chemical detectors and deep, decades-long understanding of infrared spectroscopy. 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.”