Athletes may soon make room in their freezers for a cold compress that molds to the body and works up to three times as long as ice and gel packs.

The Med-paq compress contains a special silica-water-based material that remains in powder form even during melting and freezing. Polythermal Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz., is marketing Med-paq, which was developed by chemist Ival Salyer, of the University of Dayton's Research Institute in Ohio.

The cold compress is one spin-off from a decade-long research project to find new materials that gradually absorb and release heat. The work has also resulted in a substance that may be used to help insulate a test house this fall. Salyer expects other spin-offs: These so-called phase-change materials might provide thermal protection for aircraft flight recorders--and someday even help growers prevent damage to citrus trees during severe cold snaps.

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