The requirements for standoff detection of Explosives and CWA/TICs on surfaces in the battlefield are challenging because of the low detection limits. The variety of targets, backgrounds and interferences increase the challenges. Infrared absorption spectroscopy with traditional infrared detection technologies, incandescent sources that offer broad wavelength range but poor spectral intensity, are particularly challenged in standoff applications because most photons are lost to the target, background and the environment. Using a brighter source for active infrared detection e.g. a widely-tunable quantum cascade laser (QCL) source, provides sufficient spectral intensity to achieve the needed
sensitivity and selectivity for explosives, CWAs, and TICs on surfaces. Specific detection of 1-10 μg/cm2 is achieved
within seconds. CWAs, and TICs in vapor and aerosol form present a different challenge. Vapors and aerosols are present at low
concentrations, so long pathlengths are required to achieve the desired sensitivity. The collimated output beam from the
QCL simplifies multi-reflection cells for vapor detection while also enabling large standoff distances. Results obtained by the QCL system indicate that <1 ppm for vapors can be achieved with specificity in a measurement time of seconds, and the QCL system was successfully able to detect agents in the presence of interferents. QCLs provide additional capabilities for the dismounted warfighter. Given the relatively low power consumption, small package, and instant-on capability of the QCL, a handheld device can provide field teams with early detection of toxic agents and energetic materials in standoff, vapor, or aerosol form using a single technology and device which makes it attractive compared other technologies.