Prize Challenges


Imagine if there was a way to identify an unknown substance in real-time, by simply pointing a scanner at the surface in which the substance is located. Chemicals, or areas containing potential chemical residues, could be scanned at standoff range and the substance identified on the spot. Such a development would enable expedited results in time sensitive situations and “one hundred percent” screening for security or process control. The Modeling of Reflectance Given Only Transmission of High-concentration Spectra for Chemical Recognition Over Widely-varying eNvironments (MORGOTH’S CROWN) Challenge seeks development of algorithms that would help accomplish just that! This summer, the MORGOTH’S CROWN Challenge invites participants from around the world to develop algorithms to predict changes in a chemical’s infrared (IR) spectrum caused by changes in its molecular environment. Participants will join a global community working to benchmark research and foster innovation in IR spectral prediction through crowdsourcing.

MORGOTH's Crown Challenge logo

Who We Are: The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) focuses on high-risk, high-payoff research. The MORGOTH’S CROWN challenge is related to our Standoff ILluminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures (SILMARILS) program, which works to improve real-time methods for standoff detection and identification of chemical residues on surfaces using active infrared spectroscopy with spectral, physical, and chemical information to yield hardware and software models that are fast and accurate.

What We’re Doing: The MORGOTH’S CROWN Challenge, which launches summer of 2017, is offered by IARPA, within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). IR spectrometers measure the signature of an unknown compound on a given surface, and a detection algorithm identifies the compound by comparing to a detection library. Even with a perfect spectral measurement, the identification is only as good as the correspondence between the detection library and the “real world” signatures. Currently the quality of these detection libraries, and the computational models that support them, are a bigger limitation to accurate chemical identification than the capabilities of the spectrometer hardware. This Challenge invites experts from across government, academia, industry and developer communities to create fast and accurate IR spectral models using new approaches that will advance technology and potentially foster enormous humanitarian impact. IARPA will provide solvers with spectra of: training coupons, substrates, and bulk chemicals. Solvers will then use these data sets to generate an algorithm to predict the spectra of other coupons.

Where We’re Doing This: Around the world—anyone over age 18 is welcome to participate. We’re looking for solutions from anyone who thinks they might have a way of addressing this problem, including data scientists, chemical analysts, computer programmers, and even experts in disciplines we haven’t yet considered.

When We’re Doing This: The challenge will kick off Summer 2017. Participants will be given bulk chemical and substrate spectra, as well as a set of training data of various chemical and surface combinations at the beginning of the challenge. During the challenge, solvers will work on their algorithm and track their performance against other competitors on a leaderboard. Participants will improve their algorithm throughout the challenge duration.

When does registration begin? July 2017
Where to learn more about the challenge, including rules, criteria and
eligibility requirements:
Where do solvers register?
How do I stay connected to get information on when the microsite and challenge registration opens? Send us an email at and we will add you to our mailing list

Why We’re Doing This: IARPA is conducting this challenge to invite the broader research community of industry and academia, with or without experience in IR spectral chemical detection, to participate in a convenient, efficient and non-contractual way. IARPA’s use of a crowdsourcing approach to stimulate breakthroughs in science and technology also supports the White House’s Strategy for American Innovation, as well as government transparency and efficiency. The goals and objectives of the Challenge are to:

  • Promote research and enable more comprehensive and robust detection libraries in standoff infrared chemical detection
  • Encourage various communities to develop and enhance computational models to accurately predict spectral signatures of a given substance and substrate combination in complex environments
  • Foster innovation through crowdsourcing and to move beyond current research limitations for algorithms enhancing infrared chemical detection
  • Cultivate and sustain an ongoing collaborative community dedicated to this technology and research

Why Participate? Throughout the challenge, an online leaderboard will display solvers’ rankings and accomplishments, giving them various opportunities to have their work viewed and appreciated by stakeholders from industry, government and academic communities. Participants are eligible to win cash prizes during the challenge from a total prize purse of $50,000. Our SILMARILS performers, government partners, and their affiliates are welcome to participate in the challenge, but will need to forego the monetary prizes.

For more information, see the press release, or email

Related Program(s):