A number of chemical sensing companies working on the Standoff Illuminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures (SILMARILS) program have selected Alpes Lasers SA of St-Blaise, Switzerland to develop and supply broadband Quantum Cascade Lasers. The SILMARILS program, which is managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, is part of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).
The SILMARILS program hopes to develop a portable system for detecting and identifying trace chemical residues on surfaces up to 30 meters away using active infrared spectroscopy. Such a system has to account for issues such as temperature, humidity, indoor/outdoor background light, gas phase, and surface-adsorbed clutter. The system also has to be eye-safe and have a visually unobservable beam. It also requires a rapid scan rate and a power draw that can work with limited-duration battery operation.
For the project, Alpes Lasers will develop new classes of QCLs that will offer high spectral power density and pulse energy in the mid-infrared spectrum. Such QCLs can be used to identify a broad range of organic and non-organic chemicals such as explosives, chemical weapons, narcotics or biological agents. IARPA will select the prime contractors that will integrate these lasers within portable systems.
Dr. Antoine Müller, CEO of Alpes Lasers, commented, “These contracts leverage Alpes’ know-how as a worldwide leader in broad gain and high power QCLs to develop new products. The laser chips developed have the potential to be integrated into devices that will facilitate safety screenings in airports and can be used by law enforcement agencies worldwide.”
IARPA expects that Phase 1 of the development to be completed by the end of 2017.