For millennia, face paint has helped soldiers avoid being seen by enemy forces. This Wednesday, however, a team of scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi announced that a new type of face paint may soon also be able to protect against the heat of bomb blasts and other explosions. Additionally, a clear version of the paint could be used by civilian firefighters.
The team created the material at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, which was looking for an unobtrusive way of protecting soldiers’ exposed skin from the thermal blasts created by weapons such as roadside bombs.
It was definitely a challenge, as the scientists weren’t able to use traditional hydrocarbon-based makeup ingredients, as they are flammable when exposed to intense heat. Instead, they used silicones, as the wavelengths at which they absorb radiation are outside of the intense heat spectrum.
Making things more difficult was the fact that the paint did have to include DEET, the flammable insect repellant – the U.S. military stipulates that all camouflage makeup it uses must be composed of at least 35 percent DEET. In this case, the researchers got around the problem by encapsulating the DEET within a hydrogel, to keep it from igniting.
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