23 July 2012
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) worked in collaboration with AkzoNobel to develop the paint, which is likely to be used initially on the UK’s Warrior tank.
Specifically, the team has developed a topcoat to complement a peelable paint that is already being used by a number of armed vehicles
‘The super-absorbent topcoat material that we developed with AkzoNobel provides even greater levels of aborbance,’ said Dr Steven Mitchell, a team leader of decontamination research at DSTL.
The topcoat contains silica gel, an absorbent material that can stop nerve gas from getting inside a vehicle.
The undercoat is made of a polymer that acts like the glue on a Post-it note. This feature makes it sticky enough to hold the topcoat in place but easy enough for soldiers to peel it away and dispose of it when necessary.
AkzoNobel has produced the paint so that it is available in the standard camouflage colours that the military would traditionally use on its vehicles.
The next stage is to develop coatings that alert soldiers they are under chemical attack by changing colour when they absorb toxic chemicals. Beyond that, the aim is to develop coatings that not only absorb but also neutralise noxious chemicals. A team of scientists at Vermont University has already managed to combine silica gel with a vanadium catalyst to create a mixture that oxidises mustard gas, deeming it harmless.
The current method used to decontaminate vehicles involves cleansing them in a solution of hydrogen peroxide. According to Mitchell, this is an effective way of removing harmful chemical agents from vehicles but it is also impractical, as the solution has to be transported around as a precaution and can be a burden to soldiers.