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New Camouflage Makeup Protects Soldiers From Bomb Burns

Soldiers are adding a new makeup to their war wardrobe that protects them from bomb blast burns

(The National Guard)
smithsonian.com

Bomb blasts send waves of highly compressed wind away from the explosion, followed by a two-second thermal blast. That blast heats anything in its way to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and people caught up in the explosion often suffer potentially deadly third-degree burns. Soldiers wearing standard camouflage make-up face an additional risk: the wax-based make-up melts into their faces under the heat.

To get around this problem, the Department of Defense commissioned a new camouflage make-up that could protects soldiers’ faces from intense heat from bomb blasts. After trying out a few thousand formulas, a group of researchers finally found one that resists heat for up to 15 seconds before the makeup’s temperature climbs to the point where mild first-degree burns become possible on a person’s face or hands. In some tests on pig skin, their makeup provided protection for up to 60 seconds, which is usually enough time for a soldier to get out of the range of harm.

One innovation was to use a silicone base, which isn’t as flammable as the fatty substances in traditional wax-based camouflage. Co.Exist reports:

Another challenge was finding a way to safely incorporate DEET, a flammable insect repellent, which must make up 35% of all camouflage makeup, according to a mandate from the military. Lochhead said his team encapsulated DEET in a hydrogel substance, a water-rich material, preventing it from catching fire.

The University of Southern Mississippi-based researchers are still in the initial phases of animal testing, but they hope to eventually develop a formula that could be applied to the outside of fabric, tents and other materials to prevent it from burning. They’re also working on a colorless version for firefighters.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Father of Camouflage
A Painter of Angels Became the Father of Camouflage

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