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DARPA Contracts Block MEMS for SIGMA+

Quantum Cascade Lasers Applied to CBRNE Detection

Massachusetts-based Block MEMS, a leading developer of infrared detection systems based on Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology, has received a $3.5 million (€3.2 million) contract from the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), as part of the SIGMA+ programme, the company announced on 30 July.

The programme goal is to develop a persistent, real-time, early detection system for the full spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats at the municipal and regional levels.

SIGMA+ builds on DARPA’s previous SIGMA program, which began in 2014 as an effort to significantly advance scalable detection capabilities to counter the threat of radiological and nuclear WMDs. SIGMA developed thousands of high-capability, low-cost detectors and networked them to demonstrate large-scale, continuously-streaming physical sensor networks.

The work will be carried out in a collaborative effort, led by SRI International, called Localization and Characterization of Chemical Anomalies in Urban Settings (LOCCUS). This will combine SRI’s point sensing technology with Block’s standoff sensing capabilities, to deliver an adaptive, high-sensitivity, ruggedised detection capability that exceeds chemical current sensing capabilities.

The SIGMA+ contract extends Block’s standoff chemical detection capabilities to the real-time monitoring and mapping of urban environments. Block’s QCL technology and advanced algorithms are ideally suited for this application and we look forward to the development and, ultimately, deployment of such systems by operational partners,” explained Block’s VP of Technology, Dr Anish Goyal, who is the company’s principal investigator on the contract.

This is a great opportunity to partner with DARPA and SRI International in the creation of technologies that promote global safety and security,” added company President, Al Weggeman.

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