Blast badge shows how hard soldiers get hit

A University of Pennsylvania team is working on a material that changes color depending on the intensity of explosions.

Color me blast: A conceptual design for a badge that changes color in explosions.
This is a conceptual design for a badge that changes color in explosions. Douglas H. Smith, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

We've seen clothing that protects against radiation. Now researchers in Pennsylvania are working on patches that can measure the intensity of explosions on the battlefield and alert medics.

A University of Pennsylvania team is developing a "blast badge" that can show how hard soldiers are hit when exposed to explosives on the battlefield.

Described in an online issue of NeuroImage, the project involves the creation of nanoscale pores and columns using holographic lithography. The structures respond to a shock wave by changing color, indicating intensity, and can be applied as a thin film.

The badges are lightweight, rugged, and do not require a power source. They could help improve care for victims of blast-induced traumatic brain injury, a common condition among injured soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the researchers.

The material could also serve as a blast sensor for vehicles and equipment. It's still under development, and researchers continue to work on calibrating the color change to reflect the intensity of an explosion.

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