The United States military is developing a new high-tech camouflage paint for its warriors to make them more resistant to heat blasts. High intensity explosions from roadside bombs or fires cause nearly simultaneous high-pressure blast that can fatally damage internal organs, and a thermal blast that can cook someone alive with temperatures of up to a thousand degrees Fahrenheit.
Researchers led by Robert Lochhead, a professor of polymer science at the University of Southern Mississippi, is working with a group of chemists to produce a camouflage paint that is waterproof, easy to apply and remove, human-body friendly, non-irritating to mouth, nose, and eyes, and reflective of heat blast or intense heat.
So far, Lochhead reported that the toughest part of the job is to find the exact combination of substances without using the usual fatty hydrocarbon or mineral oil and spirits . Hydrocarbon actually burns a lot faster when in contact with intense heat even for a split second.
Eventually, the team managed to find the right solution by using silicones. The substance, according to the report, absorb radiation at wavelengths beyond the specified heat spectrum of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and also less flammable.
Preliminary laboratory tests revealed that the substance can pass the strict requirements of the military. Currently, the military mandates that all camouflage makeup should contain a minimum 30 percent DEET or an insect repellant, which is, unfortunately also flammable. Because DEET is crucial in improving the camouflage effect itself, the team looked for a way to incorporate by encapsulating it in a hydrogel to prevent it from catching fire. Lab tests showed that the new product could withstand heat for as long as 1 minute–enough time for a soldier to get away from a deadly inferno.
Another use of the gel aside from being utilized as a camouflage paint includes protecting other materials like clothing and tents. The team is also developing a colorless version of the paint for firefighters who don’t need camouflage but could surely use the protection from heat blasts and usual fire.