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Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy Explosives Detection System

Maryland, United States
Government : Military
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Seeking Sources for Test and Evaluation of Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) Explosive Detection Systems


This is a Sources Sought Notice (SSN):

This announcement serves to survey product availability. This synopsis neither constitutes a Request for Proposal (RFP), nor does it restrict the Government from an ultimate acquisition approach.  This synopsis should not be construed as a commitment by the Government for any purpose.  Requests for solicitation will not receive a response.  All information is to be submitted at no cost or obligation to the U.S. Government.  The U.S. Government reserves the right to reject, in whole or in part, any input as a result of this market survey.  The U.S. Government is not obligated to notify respondents of the results of this survey.  This is not a formal solicitation.  If a formal solicitation is generated at a later date, a solicitation notice will be published. No award will be made as a result of this SSN.


The detection of explosives is a critical security technology need for applications such as aviation security, warfighter protection in theater, and broader counter-terrorism activities. In regards to security screening and public safety, sensitive, accurate and reliable methods for detecting and identifying explosive threats in the field continue to be a necessity for DoD entities and other federal government agencies. One method that is commonly utilized in the field to identify bulk quantities of unknown explosive samples is Raman spectroscopy. With current sensitivity levels, Raman spectroscopy faces significant challenges when it comes to detecting and identifying explosive samples that are present in trace quantities (e.g. sub-milligrams).

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD) is seeking (1) Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) and near COTS Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) systems/modules and their dedicated SERS substrate platforms that are capable of detecting trace amounts of energetic materials, as well as (2) discrete SERS substrates. The detection of energetic materials should include, but is not limited to, commercial and military explosives (e.g. TNT, RDX, PETN) as well as Home Made Explosives (HME).

This SSN solicits vendors' information that fully explains their existing SERS systems and dedicated substrate platform features, capabilities, and performance. Based on the information gathered, NSWC IHEODTD plans to select SERS systems and SERS substrates to be included in a test and evaluation effort. SERS substrates that can also be adapted to currently fielded systems are highly desired, as part of this effort will focus on evaluating the ability of individual SERS substrates to be coupled with and utilized by fielded systems (e.g. Gemini, PGR, etc.). The evaluation will assess the capabilities of each SERS system and substrate. Following completion of the test and evaluation effort, a final report will be written and available for use by the Department of Defense, government agencies, and law enforcement organizations.

In summary, NSWC IHEODTD is requesting information for two (2) technical areas:

•1.     Information regarding Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) and near COTS SERS systems and their dedicated substrates, and

•2.     SERS substrates that can also be readily adapted for use with conventional Raman systems, such as Thermo Scientific's Gemini, Chemring's PGR, among others.  Note: this solicitation does not offer any funding to develop this specific adaptive capability.

Vendors should provide the following requested information:

•1.     System Title

•a.     Name and model.

•2.     System Picture

•a.     Photograph of system, preferably something that gives a fair representation of the system size and components.

•3.     System Specifications.  This may be presented as a manufacturer's specification's sheet, but should include at a minimum the following details:

•a.     Size

•                                                              i.     Exterior dimensions in inches when stored and when in operational configuration. Please include any additional operational foot print information when in operation (e.g. if additional space around is required for air flow to ensure system stays cool).

•b.     Weight

•                                                              i.     Include the overall weight of the system in pounds or grams.

•c.     Power requirements

•                                                              i.     Include data on internal/external power system's needs (e.g. battery). If applicable, highlight if the system requires other than standard U. S. electrical power supply of 110-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz for operation and/or charging.

•d.     Typical environmental conditions

•                                                              i.     Indicate the system's operating and storage parameters according to the following:

•1.     Temperature range in degrees Fahrenheit

•2.     Humidity range

•3.     Barometric pressure range

•4.     Resistance to water, dust ingress

•e.     SERS substrate specifications

•f.       Information for the items listed in the table below (where applicable):

Laser Specifications:


Laser Class


Laser Excitation Wavelength(s) (nm)


Output Laser Power or Pulse Energy (mW or mJ/pulse)


Repetition Rate (for pulsed laser)


Pulse Width


Beam Diameter at Aperture


Beam Waist Diameter


Aperture to Waist Distance


Beam Divergence


Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance (NOHD, unaided viewing)


Minimum Laser Protective Eyewear OD (unaided)


Spectral Range (cm-1)


Spectral Resolution (cm-1)



•4.     Consumables and Accessories

•a.     Detail any items that are consumed by the system for operation or may require replacing over time to maintain performance.

•b.     Detail any accessory items that are available for use with the system.

•5.     Cost

•a.     Cost, measured in $US, for the following:

•                                                              i.     System

•                                                             ii.     Consumable items for system operations

•                                                           iii.     Accessory items

•                                                           iv.     Vendor operation and maintenance training (include duration)

•6.     System Distribution

•a.     Indicate if the system is currently in use by any US government or law enforcement agency.  Identify user groups.

•b.     If known, indicate if the system is International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) or Export Administration Regulations (EAR) controlled. If EAR controlled, provide the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for the system.

•7.     Technology

•a.     Provide the title and a brief description (five or fewer descriptive sentences) of the technology used by this product.

•b.     Include an assessment of the DoD Technology Readiness Level of the system.

•8.     Limitations/Hazards/Special Requirements

•a.     State any special system limitations, hazards and/or special requirements to include hazards, such as radiation sources (e.g. electromagnetic and/or ionizing sources) or hazardous chemicals and their respective levels.

•b.     Please note any additional safety considerations or procedures associated with system operation, including any human exposure restrictions and limits.

•9.     Performance

•a.     List of explosive materials and precursors in the threat library that the system should be capable of detecting and the associated detection limits (i.e. provide quantified Limit of Detection (LOD) or Thresholds, in the units that the data was measured, for each explosive or threat claimed detectable).  Provide responses for each of the substances listed in the table below; if the substrate/system cannot detect the substance, indicate "Not detectable":


Acceptable Alarm Response

Quantified LOD or Thresholds

























Composition C-4



Composition B


















H2O2 (%)















Inorganic Salts



Chlorate Salts




•10. Special Features/Capabilities

•a.     Summarize any special system features or capabilities not contained herein that improve the overall ability and effectiveness of the system to detect explosive threats.  State whether the system has ability to detect other classes of chemical compounds or other distinguishing characteristics unique to IEDs or other threats.

•b.     Narrative of System Employment Concepts: Include the conceptual mechanism by which the system accomplishes its functions and detailed employment of techniques/methods.

•c.     Provide details for any SERS substrates, complementary hardware interface features/components, and/or sampling techniques that enable SERS substrates to be adapted to, or utilized by, currently fielded Raman based systems (e.g. Gemini).


Interested entities are encouraged to respond by providing succinct responses to the items listed above.  Submissions should be limited to five pages or less. A spreadsheet can be used to organize the responses if desired.

In addition, the submission shall include the organization's name, postal address, point of contact, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, related webpage(s) URL, business size, taxpayer identification number, DUNS number, and CAGE Code.

This SSN is for information and planning purposes only and does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or solicitation. This is not to be construed as a commitment by the U.S. Government.


If a formal solicitation is generated at a later date, a solicitation notice will be published. No award will be made as a result of this market survey.


Additional information may be obtained from Alfred Wooten at ; Each submission shall be transmitted electronically to Brandi Sorzano - and a copy to, no later than 30 November 2019.


Contracting Office Address


Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division

Attn: Brandi Sorzano Contract Specialist

4081 North Jackson Road, Bldg. 841

Indian Head, MD 20640-5035

Brandi L. Sorzano, Contract Specialist, Phone 3017446908, Email

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