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Prem Kumar: DARPA Eyes Chip-Size Combs for Remote Chem/Bio Agent Detection


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking proposals for technologies that support remote detection of liquid or gaseous biological and chemical agents as part of its “Spectral Combs from UV to THz” program.

DARPA says the program targets optical frequency comb technology with a broad spectral coverage to enable sensitive and specific detection functions for biological and chemical substances.

“In laboratory settings we’ve seen proof of principle that it’s possible to identify and quantify multiple substances at a distance of 2 kilometers or more, but no portable sensors exist today that can detect and distinguish among multiple chemical or biological agents in gas or liquid form at even half that distance,” said Prem Kumar, program manager at DARPA.

He added that the agency aims to develop microchip-size OFCs with the identified sensing capabilities amid frequency clutter.

DARPA expects technical development work to cover the long-wave infrared, mid-wave infrared, submillimeter/terahertz and ultraviolet to visible spectral regions to address detection applications.

The agency also wants help in areas such as optical materials processing, optical device fabrication, algorithm development, high-resolution metrology and molecular spectroscopy and chip-based OFC generation.

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