Standoff ILluminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures

Intelligence Value

Standoff chemical detection is a ubiquitous need across the Intelligence Community for applications ranging from forensic crime scene analysis, to border and facility protection, to stockpile and production monitoring. The SILMARILS program aimed to develop a portable system for accurate real-time standoff detection and identification of trace chemical residues on surfaces using active infrared spectroscopy at up to a 30 meter range


Current approaches for trace chemical detection require physical collection and analysis. These methods require human input, introduce a fundamental limit on the screening speed, and limit the tested surfaces to those with good “wipe-ability.”

SILMARILS technology collects hyperspectral image cubes, in which each pixel contains an entire infrared spectrum, and the chemical composition of a scene can be mapped on an image. This spectral map allows target chemical smears and fingerprints to be separated from harmless background surfaces and contaminants. Total time from collection to result is less than a second for a wide range of substances of interest to intelligence, defense, and law enforcement.

The SILMARILS began in March 2016 and concluded in March 2021. Some key accomplishments include:

• Detection of explosives on portable electronics with a limit of detection in the 3-6 ng range

• Detection of trace quantities of narcotic simulants through plastic bags

• Detection of target chemicals on a wide range of “wild” substrates with real world clutter, including packages, fabrics, drink cans/bottles, and electronics during muliple tests

• Participation in stage testing events that screened vehicles for trace explosive seurrogates

• Detection of trace chemicals while in motion at speeds up to 10mph

• Detection of trace chemicals on human hand skin

Related Publications

To access SILMARILS program-related publications, please visit Google Scholar.


Contact Information

Program Manager

Main Office

Related Program(s)

Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)

Link(s) to BAA


Solicitation Status


Proposers' Day Date

January 20, 2015

BAA Release Date

April 2, 2015

BAA Question Period

April 2, 2015 — May 1, 2015

Proposal Due Date

May 18, 2015

Program Summary

Testing and Evaluation Partners

  • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory 
  • MITRE 
  • Naval Research Laboratory 
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 
  • Sandia National Laboratory

Prime Performers

  • Block MEMS, LLC
  • Leidos, Inc.
  • LGS Innovations, LLC
  • Physical Sciences, Inc.
  • Spectrum Photonics

Additional Information