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Block MEMS Awarded $1.7 Million DHS-CWMD Contract to Detect Chemical Threats on Shipped Parcels

Date Announced: 12 Aug 2020

Reflectance infrared technique incorporates quantum cascade lasers to detect narcotics, explosives, and more.

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass., Aug. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Block MEMS, LLC (Block) has been awarded a contract by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) for on-the-move standoff detection of trace quantities of drugs such as fentanyl, explosives, chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and toxic chemicals on parcels shipped to and within the United States. 

Under this newly awarded contract, Block MEMS will develop a fieldable prototype Trace Chemical Detector (TCD) to screen the outside surfaces of parcels for trace chemicals while they are being transported on a conveyor belt at operational speeds. The TCD will be able to detect the chemicals of interest including explosives, opioids, chemical agents, agent precursors, and pharmaceuticals at relevant concentration levels. This program will culminate with an operational system being performance tested at a government designated facility in an operational environment.

This effort will significantly leverage Block's current contract "Standoff Illuminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures" (SILMARILS) program funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Under previous Phases of SILMARILS, using its eye-safe proprietary quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) Block successfully demonstrated the ability of hyperspectral imaging to detect and map out the location of trace quantities of chemicals on a wide variety of surfaces at standoff distances of up to 25 meters. Furthermore, measurements could be made at high speeds, within a few seconds.

Dr. Bachir Kharraja, Block's SVP of Technology and Engineering commented, "This award is a great recognition for the innovation made by Block in the QCL-based technology and will help us improve it even further."

Mr. Al Weggeman, Block's President, added, "This is a great opportunity to partner with the DHS CWMD group to advance the creation of much needed solutions that address threats posed by mail-borne WMD's. We are humbled and excited to have been chosen for such an important and impactful project."

Source: Block MEMS

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