Obscurants, which are basically metallic dust clouds, have been in use for years in order to protect troops from heat-seeking missiles. These obscurants have never been environmentally friendly or easy to control.
The army has just handed out financial awards to private companies in hopes that they might develop better obscurants. Most large military hardware emits infrared radiation, which allows heat-seeking ordinances to track their location. When these large targets are surrounded by obscurant particles, their infrared shadow disappears into what’s called the fog of war. To deploy these obscurants, grenades are filled with bronze flakes and detonated near the object that should be hidden. The obscurant works by scattering or absorbing infrared light.
Bronze particles are difficult to control and pose health hazards, which is another reason why the Army is seeking new obscurants. When better obscurants are developed, the army might be able to have eco-friendly alternatives to hide from heat-seeking missiles.
The three companies in question, Lynntech, Inc., Nanotrons, and Physical Sciences are each about to begin product development on better obscurants. Hopefully their new solutions will be less hazardous to people and the environment than bronze flakes.