A multipurpose face paint that provides protection against the intense heat, acts as a mosquito repellant and hides soldiers from the enemy has been developed by a team of American researchers for the US Army.
The novel face paint, developed for the US Army, has been described as one of the most fundamental changes in thousands of years to camouflage. It could also be used by fire fighters.
The material is powerful enough to protect against a thermal blast that can reach 600 degree Celsius (1,112 degree Fahrenheit), as hot as a burning cigarette.
"The thermal blast lasts only two seconds, but it can literally cook the face, hands and other exposed parts," said Robert Lochhead from The University of Southern Mississippi who led the study, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Lochhead and colleagues set out to find a material that soldiers could smear on their faces like suntan lotion for protection from heat much more intense than sun rays.
The formulation they discovered offers protection for far longer than a normal two-second blast, generally providing protection for up to 15 seconds - 60 seconds in some tests - before its own temperature rises to the point where a mild burn could occur.
The finding raises the possibility that people engaged in other work that requires exposure to intense heat could use a colourless version of the paint.
The team had a difficult task in designing the face paint as it could not use traditional make-up ingredients - oil or wax-based face paint - as these can melt on the face and burn the skin when in contact with intense heat. So the team turned to non-flammable silicone.
Roadside bombs, which have claimed hundreds of lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts, produce two blasts.
First, a blast wave at high pressure that spreads out at supersonic speeds and can cause devastating internal injuries.
Second, the thermal blast, which follows almost instantaneously and exceeds 600 degree Celsius. The new face paint can provide protection against this second blast.
The face paint also had to be waterproof and non-irritating. Under set military rules, it also had to contain the insect repellent Deet. This made the discovery an especially challenging one.
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