Camouflage war-paint could protect soldiers from blast burns


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A new camouflage war-paint could also protect soldiers from the searing heat of bomb blasts.

Scientists who created the make-up believe it could also be used by civilian firefighters.

Smeared on the face and hands, it allows the wearer to withstand temperatures of several hundred degrees centigrade for up to 15 seconds before suffering mild burns.

Those vital extra seconds could be enough to save lives.

Dr Robert Lochhead, who led the development team at the University of Southern Mississippi in the US, said: "The detonation of a roadside bomb or any other powerful explosive produces two dangerous blasts: first comes a blast wave of high pressure that spreads out at supersonic speeds and can cause devastating internal injuries; a thermal blast follows almost instantaneously. It is a wave of heat that exceeds 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit (600C).

"That's as hot as a burning cigarette. The thermal blast lasts only two seconds, but it can literally cook the face, hands and other exposed skin."

The anti-heat camouflage paint was unveiled today at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.

In some tests, the paint provided protection for as long as 60 seconds, said Dr Lochhead.

The material had to meet several key requirements, he told the meeting. It had to not only reflect intense heat, but also provide camouflage colours suitable for day or night. In addition it had to be easy to apply and remove, waterproof and non-irritating to the eyes, nose and mouth.

Traditional hydrocarbon chemicals used in face make-up were avoided because they tend to burn when exposed to "flame hot" temperatures. Instead, the team turned to non-flammable silicones.

Another challenge was adding the insect repellent Deet, an ingredient demanded by the US military.

"Deet also is flammable, so when the Department of Defence asked us to incorporate it, we didn't think we could do it," said Dr Lochhead.

The team successfully included Deet by encapsulating it in a water-rich hydrogel that acted as a fire guard.