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Starlite is an intumescent material claimed to be able to withstand and insulate from extreme heat. It was invented by British hairdresser and amateur chemist Maurice Ward (1933–2011) during the 1970s and 1980s, and received significant publicity after coverage of the material aired in 1990 on the BBC science and technology show Tomorrow's World.[1] The name Starlite was coined by Ward's granddaughter Kimberly.

The American company Thermashield, LLC claims to have acquired the rights to Starlite in 2013 and replicated it.[2] It is the only company to have itself publicly demonstrated the technology and have samples tested by third parties.[3]


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 an egg coated in Starlite could remain raw, and cold enough to be picked up with a bare hand, even after five minutes in the flame of a blowtorch. It would also prevent a blowtorch from damaging a human hand.[4] When heat is applied, the material chars, which creates an expanding low density foam of carbon which is very thermally resistant.[5]

Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence Sir Ronald Mason noted, "This is really the most remarkable material".[6][better source needed]

Materials scientist Mark Miodownik described Starlite as a type of intumescent paint, and one of the materials he would most like to see for himself.[7][8] He also admitted some doubt about the commercial potential of Starlite.[9]

NASA engineer Rosendo ‘Rudy’ Naranjo[10] said of their discussions with Ward, "We have done a lot of evaluation and ...we know all the tremendous possibilities that this material has."[11]

Drawbacks are the need to have a very high temperature or flame to start the reaction and form the insulation layer, so low temperature insulation needs to be proven, as well as testing thermal conductivity and capacity in different conditions. Contamination with dust residue may occur, and so slow degradation with use.[5]

Its main use appears to be as a flame retardant. Advances in mechanical property such as composite material association needed to be done to extend the applications.


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 proof, it is claimed to be not entirely inorganic but up to 90 percent organic.[11]

Nicola McDermott, Ward's youngest daughter, stated that Starlite is 'natural' and edible, and that it has been fed to dogs and horses without ill effects.[12]

The American company Thermashield, which owns the Starlite formula, stated in a radio interview that Starlite is not made from household ingredients and there is no PVA glue, baking soda or baking powder in it.[13]


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.[9]

NASA became involved in Starlite in 1994, and NASA representative Rudy Naranjo talked about its potential in a Dateline NBC report. The Dateline announcer said that maybe Starlite could help with the fragile Space Shuttle heat shield.[14]

Boeing, which was the main contractor for the Space Shuttles, became interested in 1994, in the potential of Starlite to eliminate flammable materials in their jets.[15]

By the time of his death, 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.[16]

Claimed Replication[edit]

A YouTube user NightHawkInLight attempted to create materials that replicate the properties of Starlite in 2018. Observing that the mechanism that generates an expanding carbon foam in Starlite is similar to black snake fireworks, NightHawkInLight concocted a formula using cornstarch, baking soda, and PVA glue. After drying, the hardened material creates a small layer of carbon foam on the surface when exposed to high heat, insulating the material from further heat transfer.[17] he later improved it by taking out the pva glue, and baking soda, and adding flour, and borax which makes it less expensive, mold resistant, and allows it to work when dry

Several tests made with the replication and variant recipe can handle lasers,[18] thermite,[19] torch, etc. But the replication failed to make a crucible for an induction furnace.[20]

Thermashield's Starlite has successfully passed Femtosec Laser testing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and ASTM D635-15 Standard Testing.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keene, Jamie (17 May 2012). "Starlite: the miracle material that could be lost forever". The Verge. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ Thermashield, "News", "News", July 2019
  3. ^ Thermashield, "News", "Aerospace Validation", November 2019
  4. ^ "Maurice on Tomorrow's World". YouTube. 29 March 2009.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, Lee (reporter). How does Starlite work?. BBC Reel. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Soundbites". The Guardian. 12 April 1993.
  7. ^ Fisher, Richard (16 May 2012). "The power of cool: Whatever became of Starlite?". New Scientist.
  8. ^ Johnson, Lee (reporter). What's inside Starlite?. BBC Reel. 5:15 minutes in. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b Johnson, Lee (reporter). The wonder material that never made it. BBC Reel. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Rosendo 'Rudy' Naranjo, aerospace engineer". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  11. ^ a b George, Rose (15 April 2009). "Starlite, the nuclear blast-defying plastic that could change the world". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  12. ^ Johnson, Lee (reporter). What's inside Starlite?. BBC Reel. 2:45 minutes in. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  13. ^ Daniel, Alice (21 May 2019). Atwater Murder Part 2, Mysterious Starlite, Summer Arts Preview. Valley Public Radio – Valley Edition. 22:40 minutes in. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  14. ^ Jane Pauley and Stone Phillips (reporter). Starlite Dateline NBC. Dateline. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Ultrafast Data Transmissions That Can Find You". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Smith, Chris (2 August 2016). "The mystery of Starlite". The Naked Scientists. BBC. (Written transcript of audio programme).
  17. ^ "This YouTuber Creates the Almost Indestructible Supermaterial, Starlite in his Kitchen". Interesting Engineering.
  18. ^ Mancave Effects (21 January 2019). "K40 Laser vs. Starlite Super Insulator / Testing what Recipe really works".
  19. ^ AdvancedProcrastination (30 December 2018). "Starlite vs. Thermite (Bonus: Foundry use)".
  20. ^ Mancave Effects (12 January 2020). "Can You Make A Crucible Out Of Starlite ? | Is Starlite Bulletproof?".
  21. ^ "Demonstration". Thermashield. 13 July 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2019.

External links[edit]