updated 2/27/2012 8:15:36 PM ET 2012-02-28T01:15:36

U.S. soldiers wounded on patrol could soon find fast relief: The Army has begun testing the ability of a "bioelectric bandage" to ease pain, kill infectious microbes and speed up healing.

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The Procellera cloth bandage contains small silver and zinc dots in the pattern of tiny batteries that create micro-currents when moist, according to the bandage's manufacturer, Vomaris. The electric currents mimic the body's own energy levels -- a process that the Arizona-based company says helps speed up repair of the entire wound rather than just the edges.

A unit of Army Rangers recently found that the bandage gave quick pain relief from foot blisters, allowing the elite soldiers to march on without problems, the Army says. It hopes that scientific testing of the antimicrobial bandage can back up such success stories.

Silver has a long medical history of use in preventing infections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the antimicrobial bandage for use with skin wounds ranging from simple abrasions to traumatic wounds and surgical sites.

If the military likes what it sees, such civilian products could find fast deployment on the battlefield. The Navy and Marines already are looking into an FDA-approved handheld scanner capable of detecting life-threatening bleeding in the brain.

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But some medical technologies on the military's wish list remain just out of reach. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency put out the call for a medical sampling device the size of a credit card that could carry soldiers' biological samples back to the lab for additional testing.

Some of the military's other medical needs are inviting a new look at old technologies. The Air Force has issued a $15,000 challenge for innovators to help reinvent the battlefield stretcher so that just one soldier is needed to carry a wounded comrade away from danger.

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