Image: Army tents
Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Mullett
A U.S. soldier and Iraqi worker apply Terra Strong spray foam on the roof of a medical tent in Basra, Iraq.
updated 11/16/2009 11:19:32 AM ET 2009-11-16T16:19:32

U.S. Army tents don't provide much relief from the heat of the Iraqi desert, where temperatures can soar to highs of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with air conditioning, soldiers are lucky to crank things down to a sweltering 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

To cool down sweaty troops and improve energy efficiency, the U.S. military recently began coating 900 air-conditioned tents with spray-on insulating foam. The specialized polyurethane foam, called TerraStrong, will further shield the soldiers’ temporary homes against solar rays while preventing precious cool air from leaking out.

Workers spray the foam from 50 gallon drums. It hardens in roughly 20 minutes and delivers an energy savings of between 25 and 33 percent, according to manufacturers.

According to building scientist and indoor air-quality expert Joseph Lstiburek, the foam promises fast, flexible means of retrofitting both tents and permanent structures for higher energy efficiency.

"For the Army, there is no other solution even close to this given speed, flexibility, mobility," Lstiburek told Discovery News. "You don't have to ship lots of big pieces of stuff around. Think about it: a big tent insulated on the exterior that acts as a combined water control layer, air control layer, vapor control layer and thermal control layer that is also structural."

Honeywell, which is carrying out the $12.5 million project, plans to train 50 locals for the job and then donate the technology to the Iraqis once the job is complete.

The project falls in line with the Army's 2009-2015 strategic plan to improve facility efficiency and overall quality of life for soldiers, families and civilians.

In addition to the foam project, the U.S. military also took green strides in 2009 by experimenting with hybrid vehicle engines, algae-based jet fuel, improved fuel cells and the use of both garbage-based biofuel refineries and solar energy generators at forward operating bases.

© 2012 Discovery Channel


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