The new material offers the traditional use of helping soldiers' skin blend in with the natural environment and conceal them from enemies, but can also give protection from the intense heat of roadside bomb blasts and other explosions that have injured many serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts, they said.
"The detonation of a roadside bomb or any other powerful explosive produces two dangerous blasts," Robert Lochhead of the University of Southern Mississippi told scientists assembled for the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
"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. That's as hot as a burning cigarette. The thermal blast lasts only 2 seconds, but it can literally cook the face, hands and other exposed skin," Lochhead said.
Lochhead and his colleagues have developed a material soldiers can apply to their faces like suntan lotion that in laboratory experiments offered protection that greatly exceeded the 2-second heat-wave threat from improvised explosive devices and other bombs, a release issued by the society said.
The new camouflage makeup can protect the face and hands for up to 15 seconds before a first-degree burn, which is a mild burn, might occur, researchers said.
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