It sounds like an old Goon Show joke, but soldiers may one day protect themselves from blasts by wallpapering temporary shelters. It may not be very decorative, but the new ballistic wallpaper under development by the US Army Corps of Engineers uses a special fiber inlay to help prevent walls from collapsing under blast effects.

If you wander the back alleys of British towns, you can still spot obscure windows dating back to the Second World War showing traces of sticky tape that the owners never bothered to strip off. During the German Blitz, Britons would crisscross their windows with ordinary tape to keep the glass from turning into flying daggers during bomber attacks. It was a simple fix that saved many thousands of lives and the principle is being revived to reinforce not windows, but whole walls.

According to Nick Boone, a research mechanical engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers' Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi, soldiers will often take temporary shelter in abandoned buildings made of masonry, brick, cinderblock, or other materials. These may seem substantial, but when struck by an explosive shell or missile, they can collapse into dangerous rubble.

The new wallpaper, which was unveiled at the Pentagon on May 14 as part of Department of Defense Lab Day, is a portable, lightweight means of quickly reinforcing existing walls. It consists of rolls of adhesive wallpaper made of flexible polymer film, which is embedded with Kevlar fibers in a crisscross pattern. According to Boone, the wallpaper can be easily applied and keeps blast-damaged walls from turning into a hail of flying debris.

Boone says that the wallpaper has already undergone blast testing at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and is still in the research and development stage, but it could one day see use in the field.

Source: US Army