Many targets of interest provide only very small signature differences from the clutter background. The ability to detect these small difference targets should be improved by using data which is diverse in space, time, wavelength or some other observable. Target materials often differ from background materials in the variation of their reflectance or emittance with wavelength. A multispectral sensor is therefore considered as a means to improve detection of small signal targets. If this sensor operates in the thermal infrared, it will not need solar illumination and will be useful at night as well as during the day. An understanding of the phenomenology of the spectral properties of materials and an ability to model and simulate target and clutter signatures is needed to understand potential target detection performance from multispectral infrared sensor data. Spectral variations in material emittance are due to vibrational energy transitions in molecular bonds. The spectral emittances of many materials of interest have been measured. Examples are vegetation, soil, construction and road materials, and paints. A multispectral infrared signature model has been developed which includes target and background temperature and emissivity, sky, sun, cloud and background irradiance, multiple reflection effects, path radiance, and atmospheric attenuation. This model can be used to predict multispectral infrared signatures for small signal targets.