Block MEMS has received a multi-million dollar contract from the US Army’s Joint Improvised Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to help soldiers detect buried explosives in the battlefield.

Managed by the army’s Night-Vision and Electronics Sensors Directorate (NVESD) and Sentel, the contract covers delivery of the company’s LaserScan spectrometer that enables detection of recently dug-up soil, a potential indicator of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), from a standoff distance.

Block executive chairman Daniel Cavicchio said the latest award brought the value of total contracts awarded by various Department of Defense (DoD) branches for the company’s detection products to more than $7.8m.

"Our LaserScan will provide the soldier with another important tool to avoid triggering these IEDs."

"These capabilities include Block’s LaserScan product, which uses widely tuneable quantum cascade lasers, and our PORTHOS, which uses a compact rugged Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer," he said.

Block CEO Petros Kotidis added that hidden IEDs have become a primary cause of battlefield casualties due to existing detection techniques being deceived.

"Our LaserScan will provide the soldier with another important tool to avoid triggering these IEDs. This new contract will enable us to miniaturise and ruggedise to military specs the LaserScan so it can be used by dismounted soldiers," Kotidis added.

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"Eventually this product will also be mounted on ground vehicles, including small robots, to aid route clearance operations and protect military convoys."

Equipped with a 200kHz pulsed laser, the LaserScan is a widely tuneable mid-infrared quantum cascade laser (mid-IR QCL) spectrometer designed for rapid detection and measurement of explosive materials and toxic chemical agents from a distance of 6in to 2ft.

The device is also used for a wide range of commercial applications, such as pharmaceutical cleaning validation, surface layers analysis, as well as detection of residual silicone, oils and lubricants.