Starlite is a material claimed to be able to withstand and insulate from extreme heat. It was invented by amateur chemist and hairdresser Maurice Ward (1933–2011) during the 1970s and 1980s, and received much publicity in 1993 thanks to coverage on the science and technology show Tomorrow's World. The name Starlite was coined by Ward's granddaughter Kimberly.
Despite interest from NASA and other major technological companies, Ward never revealed the composition of Starlite, which is still unknown. Ward once mentioned that his close family knows the fabrication process, but after his death neither his wife nor any of his four daughters have produced any sample to demonstrate that they know the process.
Under tests, Starlite was claimed to be able to withstand attack by a laser beam that could produce a temperature of 10,000 degrees Celsius. Live demonstrations on Tomorrow's World and BBC Radio 4 showed that Starlite could keep an egg (coated in the material) raw, and cold enough to be picked up with a bare hand, even after five minutes of blowtorch attack. It would also prevent a blowtorch from damaging a human hand.
Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence Sir Ronald Mason noted, "Maurice sometimes speaks scientific cobblers, but this is really the most remarkable material".[better source needed]
Ward allowed various organisations such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment and ICI to conduct tests on samples, but did not permit them to retain samples for fear of reverse engineering. Ward maintained that his invention was worth billions and he insisted he retain 51% ownership of the formula – a move that may have hindered Starlite's commercialisation.
Although Ward claimed discussions with various organisations such as NASA, he was very protective of the composition for fear of losing control of the rights to the material (not even letting samples out of his sight). By the time of his death in May 2011, there appeared to have been no commercialisation of Starlite, and the formulation of the material has not been released to the public. According to a 2016 broadcast of the BBC programme The Naked Scientists, Ward took his secrets with him when he died.
In 2011, an anonymous contributor to The Guardian's Notes & Queries section said that the main issue was that Starlite came in the form of powder that had to be mixed with PVA glue to be coated, but that such coating had a very limited lifespan. He also says that "this is the true reason why Mr Ward was never able to sell or bring his incomplete product to market." This contributor also claims that there was at least one other complete and superior product undergoing tests at the time he published his comment.
Starlite's composition is a closely guarded secret, but it is said to contain a variety of (organic) polymers and co-polymers with both organic and inorganic additives, including borates and small quantities of ceramics and other special barrier ingredients — up to 21 in all. Perhaps uniquely for a material claimed to be thermal and blast-proof, it is claimed to be not wholly inorganic but up to 90 percent organic.
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Interview with Maurice Ward.
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