The UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched a new Themed Competition called Small, Lightweight Trace Explosives Detector. It is jointly funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) and seeks proposals for the development of novel, lightweight, bioassay systems to detect trace explosives in security and military applications.
Trace detection systems allow end users to detect and identify non-visible (trace) levels of materials from surfaces and/or items relating to defense and security, such as those resulting from a suspected improvised explosive device. Current trace detection equipment, such as systems used in airports, have a significant size, weight and power (SWaP) footprint. Pocket-sized systems such as chemical test kits that are used for presumptive identification have much lower SWaP but do not perform as well as the larger systems.
Detection systems that use biological assays have low SWaP and can be used in some applications for sensing molecular explosives. However, they have not been optimized for trace detection of explosives. Biological assay in this context refers to the use of biologically derived or biologically inspired reagents or methods that can be used to identify and/or detect a chemical. In this case, the assay would be used to achieve detection of trace/sub-visible quantities of molecular explosive targets collected from a surface.
The primary aim of DASA’s competition is to develop innovative platforms for the trace detection of explosives using biologically derived detection strategies. The accelerator is looking for innovative solutions that will incorporate modern sampling and reader formats into a platform that is capable of the trace detection of – initially – three explosive materials with the potential for future iterations of the platform to detect up to 10 explosives and/or other small-molecule threats.
Among the requirements listed in the competition document, DASA notes that the process of taking the sample should be straightforward. For example, users of current trace explosives detection systems who are familiar with swabbing should be capable of sample collection and introduction into the system without additional training.
The total funding available for this themed competition is £600,000. DASA expects to fund two proposals of up to £300,000 each or one outstanding proposal up to £600,000.
The deadline to submit a proposal is midday (BST) on April 9. A Q&A webinar to discuss the competition requirements will take place on February 8. A series of 15-minute one-to-one webinar sessions will take place on February 15 and 20 and will provide the opportunity to ask specific questions.
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