New paint protects skin against fire

 
By: Shifra Unger 

Soon you will be able to walk in fire and not get burned.

Chemists have developed a new type of military camouflage face paint that may help protect against the heat of an explosion and fire. The composition may also be used by firefighters entering burning buildings to avoid the heat.

Soldiers wear camouflage face paint to help them blend in with their surroundings and hide from their enemies. However, mineral paints are typically oil-based or mineral spirit-based and do not provide protection against the heat of an explosion. In fact, the paint may melt or burn, increasing the damage to the skin of the soldier.

A team led by chemist Robert Y. Lochhead of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, took a task that initially was seen as impossible. They developed a paper-thin paint that was not toxic, credible and provides heat protection.

He told a Philadelphia meeting of the American Chemical Society that the thermal heat wave explosion reaches temperatures of 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature of a lit cigarette. The thermal explosion lasts only two seconds or so, but the extreme
heat can cook the face, hands and any other exposed skin.

Laboratory experiments showed that the new composition may protect skin for as long as 15 seconds before the temperature rose high enough to produce mild first-degree burns. In some tests, the paint provided protection for up to 60 seconds, Lochhead said, which could give soldiers time to escape the blast zone.

The team will continue to test the product on the skin, and explore its use to protect clothing, tents and other materials from burning. They are also developing a version for civilian firefighters.