Components and Capabilities for Ultra-Low- Power Chemical Sensing Devices

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is seeking information on research efforts into components and capabilities for ultra-low-power chemical sensing devices: collection systems, separation systems, detection/identification, vacuum systems, and power systems. This Request for Information  is issued solely for information gathering and planning purposes; this RFI does not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals. The following sections of this announcement contain details of the scope of technical efforts of interest, along with instructions for the submission of responses.

Background & Scope

Chemical sensing is a priority for the Intelligence Community. Applications include forensic analysis, border/facility protection, and stockpile/production monitoring. In particular, the IC has an interest in the long term monitoring of a chemical environment without human oversight. The technology necessary for local and continuous monitoring of this type must provide high sensitivity and accuracy, be robust in the presence of complex chemical mixtures, and be contained in a small, ruggedized package with autonomous operation. Current technology falls short of meeting all of these requirements. The Molecular Analyzer for Efficient Gas-Phase Low-power INterrogation program seeks to address these issues.

In MAEGLIN Phase 1 (IARPA-BAA-16-01), IARPA funded three separate Thrust Areas to develop the component technologies that will enable an integrated prototype in Phase 2 of the program (IARPABAA- 18-04, expected release in June 2018). Each Thrust Area was structured with specific metrics independent of the others.

  • Collection – Low-power, reversible gas phase collection/storage/release technology.
  • Separation – Low-power, non-destructive separation of chemical mixtures with a broad concentration range, potentially including the ability to “bleed off” all or part of the collected sample if desired. System will use minimal (preferably no) consumables.
  • Identification – Low-power, high-accuracy identification of chemicals as pure compounds or low-count mixtures with a large library. System will use minimal (preferably no) consumables.

MAEGLIN Phase 1 did not include research into vacuum or power systems. These areas will be of significant importance, however, in meeting the Phase 2 metrics.

MAEGLIN Phase 2 will demonstrate integrated prototype systems in two capability tracks: Forensic Identification and Screening Identification.

The Forensic Identification track seeks solutions that will be able to collect target and related chemicals at concentrations potentially several orders of magnitude lower than the ambient chemical background, separate these chemicals from interferents, and perform a full analysis of the complex mixture with positive identification of a broad range of species. An interferent is any chemical with similar physical or spectral properties to the target chemicals and is known to be false alarm triggers. The ability to screen for multiple chemical targets will allow for analysis of subtle changes in the overall chemical effluent from monitored locations – especially when there are several possible target molecules, or when the target molecules themselves have vapor pressures too low to be detected in gas phase effluent, so their presence must be inferred by the presence of a cocktail of precursors, decomposition products, and ancillary production chemicals. Forensic Identification systems will also be able to provide a spectrum or other distinctive signature modality for all detected compounds that would allow automated detection of the presence of a compound not in the system library (true unknown), and allow a trained scientist to evaluate the recorded spectrum or signature modality offline for probable determination of the identity of the unknown compound.

The Screening Identification track seeks solutions that will be able to collect a moderately complex chemical mixture, screen out common background materials and interferents, and provide an automated identification of the presence of a target compound that is in the system’s library of chemical targets. Screening Identification systems must have a high probability of detection for target chemicals, and a low false alarm rate in the presence of common interferents such as hydrocarbons. These systems will not be required to detect the presence of a true unknown, or provide a signature modality that is fundamentally distinctive for all possible chemical targets.

MAEGLIN Phase 2 will be a separate, fully open solicitation distinct from MAEGLIN Phase 1. Participation in MAEGLIN Phase 1 as a prime or subcontractor will not be a requirement for participation in Phase 2. Additionally, component technology approaches of interest in MAEGLIN Phase 2 will not be limited to the approaches funded in MAEGLIN Phase 1. All technology approaches that can meet the overall system metrics are of interest in MAEGLIN Phase 2. Because MAEGLIN Phase 2 is an integration phase culminating in a prototype demonstration, it is expected that the majority of the component technology proposed for Phase 2 will have been developed past the Proof of Concept stage either through funding in MAEGLIN Phase 1, or through similar levels of development via private funding or funding by other government development efforts. However, it is expected that additional development and refinement of component technology will be undertaken as part of the overall Phase 2 system development.

Additional information on MAEGLIN Phase 2 can be found on the IARPA website, where briefing charts from and a video of the MAEGLIN Phase 2 Proposers’ Day are posted: https://www.iarpa.gov/index.php/research-programs/maeglin/maeglin-phase-2.

A draft Broad Agency Announcement for MAEGLIN Phase 2 is also posted at: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=dcabbcf4cedf99e62c0c35485429b1b3.

The goal of this RFI is to gather information about component level technology that has been developed inside and outside of the MAEGLIN Phase 1 efforts and to share that information with those interested in submitting proposals for MAEGLIN Phase 2 to facilitate teaming and overall creativity of system approaches.

Description of Use

The information gathered from this RFI will be used in a data package that will be made available to those who 1.) respond to this RFI or 2.) register on IDEAS for the MAEGLIN Phase 2 BAA. Additionally, RFI information will be shared with IARPA’s MAEGLIN mission partners to help them evaluate the current state of the art in components for compact, ultra-low-power chemical sensing systems. Please do not submit any responses that include proprietary or classified information.

This is similar to a data package summarizing the MAEGLIN Phase 1 system performance and Government testbed used to validate this performance that will also be provided to the same distribution list.

Requested Information

IARPA is interested in current, state-of-the-art capabilities in compact, ultra-low-power chemical sensing technology on a component level. The technology does not need to be commercially available; research level innovation that could be incorporated into an integrated prototype if of particular interest. It is expected that the technology described in responses to this RFI will fall into one or more of the following categories.

  • Collection
  • Separation
  • Detection/Identification
  • Power systems
  • Vacuum systems

All responses to this RFI should address the following points, regardless of category:

  1. Please give a brief overview of your technology.
  2. What is new and innovative in this approach, compared to the current state of the art?
  3. What is the current status of your research?
  4. What is the estimated lifetime of your technology? Is this calculated or experimentally determined?
  5. Please provide any figures/images that you feel represent your research well. This can include schematics, photographs, data, etc. Please provide descriptive captions for the figures.

Responses to the Collection category should address the following points:

  1. What is the size and weight of your technology? How far could this be modified with further research?
  2. What is the current and theoretical power consumption for your technology?
  3. What is the loading efficiency of your material (mass or moles of material and substrate)?
  4. What is the active material? How many grams of material do you currently use? How variable is this?
  5. What is the substrate material? How many grams of material do you currently use? How variable is this?
  6. What is the collected/desorbed amount (ppb/time)?
  7. What biases does your technology have? (i.e. mass, humidity, polarity, etc.)
  8. What volume of gas does your technology require to deliver a chemical bolus to separation/identification system?
  9. How does your technology handle humidity and particulates that may be introduced?
  10. Does your technology have the capability, in addition to gas collection, to collect aerosol, liquid, or solid samples?

Responses to the Separation category should address the following points:

  1. What is the size and weight of your technology? How far could this be modified with further research?
  2. What is the current and theoretical power consumption of your technology?
  3. What is the optimal carrier gas and flow rate for your technology?
  4. How many theoretical plates do you calculate for your technology? Or if theoretical plates are not a valid separation capability metric for your technology, please provide an alternative metric and your capability against it.
  5. What is the Kovats retention index for your technology? What are the retention times for select compounds?
  6. What stationary phase(s) do you currently use? What is the selectivity of your technology? What chemical types are separable?
  7. What is the pressure drop of your technology?
  8. What is the peak resolution of your technology?
  9. What is the thermal stability of your technology?
  10. What biases does your technology have? (i.e. mass, polarity, carryover, etc.)

Responses to the Detection/Identification category should address the following points:

  1. What is the size and weight of your technology? How far could this be modified with further research?
  2. What is the current and theoretical power consumption of your technology?
  3. What mass range or general molecular complexity is your technology capable of detecting?
  4. If you require a carrier gas, what is the preferred one? Are other options a possibility and what adjustments would be required?
  5. Does your technology have identification capability?
  6. What is the Limit of Detection and Limit of Identification?
  7. What are the vacuum requirements (if any) for your technology?
  8. For mass spectrometry approaches – what is your mass resolution? For other approaches, what metric do you use to define chemical complexity, and using that metric what types of chemicals can your approach detect or identify?
  9. Please explain the chemical identification and search algorithms you currently employ. What are the computer requirements and processing time?
  10. What modifications could be made to your technology to reduce power, size, and weight when integrated with other components?

Responses to the Power Systems category should address the following points:

  1. What is the size and weight of your technology? How far could this be modified with further research?
  2. What form factor is your technology? Is this customizable and how so?
  3. What voltage, current, peak and average power is your system capable of? How could these values be improved upon with additional research?
  4. What materials does your technology utilize?
  5. How robust is your power systems technology to platform motion? To temperature variances?

Responses to the Vacuum Systems category should address the following points:

  1. What is the size and weight of your technology? How far could this be modified with further research?
  2. What is the current and theoretical (future, with modification(s) proposed in item (1)) power consumption of your technology?
  3. What vacuum pressure can your technology achieve? How far could this be improved with additional research?
  4. How quickly can your technology pump down to 50% of its ultimate vacuum pressure? To 90%? To 100%?
  5. How robust is your vacuum technology to platform motion? To temperature variances?

If a respondent has a technology approach that could bridge one or more of these listed categories, or eliminate one of the expected subsystems in an overall integrated system, respondents should present these approaches at the subsystem level. Notional examples include a combined collector and separator, or a collector and analyzer combination that does not need a separator. Responses discussing creative subsystem approaches, beyond just the approaches funded in MAEGLIN Phase 1, are encouraged. If any of notional metrics listed in each of the categories above does not apply to your novel approach, please provide alternative/substitute metrics that numerically describe performance capabilities.

While responses to every point are not necessary, they are encouraged. The purpose of this RFI is to promote teaming possibilities between qualified sources towards the goal of an integrated prototype in MAEGLIN Phase 2.

Preparation Instructions to Respondents

IARPA requests that respondents submit responses for use by the Government in formulating a data package to be distributed to those who 1.) respond to this RFI or 2.) register on IDEAS for the MAEGLIN Phase 2 BAA. IARPA requests that submittals briefly and clearly describe the technological concept and current approach, outline critical issues/obstacles, and describe how the approach may address those issues/obstacles with further research. If appropriate, respondents may also choose to provide a nonproprietary rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate regarding what such approaches might require in terms of funding and other resources for one or more years. This announcement contains all of the information required to submit a response. No additional forms, kits, or other materials are needed.

IARPA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources from within and outside of the US. Because IARPA is interested in integrated prototype resulting from component technology, responses from teams with complementary areas of expertise are welcome.

Responses have the following formatting requirements:

  • A one page cover letter that identifies the title, organization(s), respondent’s technical and administrative points of contact – including names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, and email addresses of all co-authors, and clearly indicating its association with RFI-18-04;
  • A substantive, focused, one-half page executive summary;
  • A description of the technology that answers any/all of the questions listed in the previous section of this RFI (limited to 5 pages, 11 point font, single-sided, single-spaced, 8.5x11 inch paper, with 1 inch margins);
  • Schematics, photographs, and other relevant images as described in the previous section of this RFI, including captions (limited of 5 images);
  • A list of relevant citations;
  • Optionally, a single overview briefing chart graphically depicting the key technological innovation.

Submission Instructions to Respondents

Responses to this RFI are due no later than 5 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on June 1, 2018. All submissions must be electronically submitted to dni-iarpa-rfi-18-04@iarpa.gov as a Word document. Inquiries to this RFI must be submitted to dni-iarpa-rfi-18-04@iarpa.gov. Do not send questions with proprietary or classified content.

Disclaimers and Important Notes

This is an RFI issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a solicitation. Respondents are advised that IARPA is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received, or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted under this RFI.

Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Respondents are solely responsible for all expenses associated with responding to this RFI. IARPA will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred in responding to this RFI. It is the respondent’s responsibility to ensure that the submitted material has been approved for public release by the information owner.

The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited, nor is the Government obligated to issue a solicitation based on responses received. Neither proprietary nor classified concepts or information should be included in the submittal. Input on technical aspects of the responses may be solicited by IARPA from non-Government consultants/experts who are bound by appropriate non-disclosure requirements.

Contracting Office Address:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
Washington, District of Columbia 20511
United States

Primary Point of Contact:

Kristy DeWitt
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
dni-iarpa-rfi-18-04@iarpa.gov

IARPA-RFI-18-04  CLOSED

Posted Date: May 11, 2018
Responses Due: June 1, 2018