Coating America

Paint that protects military assets from chemical warfare also protects national treasures

January 15, 2015

By T'Jae Ellis, ARL Public Affairs Office

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 21, 2015) -- The U.S. Army protects its ground and air vehicles against chemical and biological contaminants with advanced coatings developed at the Army Research Laboratory.

Million of gallons of chemical agent resistant coatings, known as CARC, are used across the DOD each year.

"Every asset that the Army owns, whether it's a ground piece of equipment or a rotary aircraft, everything has a requirement for a camoflauge coating," said John Escarsega, DOD CARC commodity manager. "All of those coatings are verified and validated here at ARL."

CARC has been so successful at protecting America's assets from chemical and biological contaminants that the National Gallery of Art became interested in the potential benefits.

ARL recently collaborated with the gallery to protect national treasures that are losing their luster -- and sometimes chipping away at their structures -- because of weather conditions, and because of art lovers touching and climbing on them. Several pieces of art located at the National Gallery of Art in the sculpture garden and east wing use the coating, among them are, "Snake is out" and "Wandering Rocks."

The solution is based on ARL's water dispersible coating technology.

"This ARL invention challenged all leading researchers working in polyurethane chemistry and undermined traditional thinking dating back to the 1940's original development of urethanes," Escarsega said.

CARC is a paint used on military vehicles to make metal surfaces highly resistant to corrosion and penetration of chemical agents.

The Materials and Manufacturing Division, where Escarsega works, oversees coatings, sealants and adhesives, solvents and alternative paint removal. The division also had significant roles in reformulating coatings for ammunitions working with Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, and pretreatments working with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

"The Army is consistently managing its coatings priorities against signature management, or the ability to detect certain chemical or biological threats, and the coatings ability to offer high levels of chemical/biological resistance or protection," he said. "We are exploring efficacy against a broad swath of threats, but primarily are concerned with blister and nerve agents."

The latest episode of Inside the Lab, ARL's mini-documentary series, explores the evolution of CARC and how the coating is evolving to address future threats (Play Video).


The Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness--technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment--to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


Last Update / Reviewed: January 15, 2015