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Starlite: the miracle material that could be lost forever

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An article in 'New Scientist' tells the story of Maurice Ward, an eccentric inventor from north-east England and his revolutionary invention Starlite, which became a closely-guarded secret.

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via <a href="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/118445/Starlite_egg.png">dl.dropbox.com</a>
via dl.dropbox.com

On a 1990 episode of the BBC TV show Tomorrow's World, presenter Peter McCann showed off a new plastic named "Starlite" in a rather unusual way: by pointing blowtorches at a pair of eggs. While one egg shattered in seconds, the other stolidly bore the heat, glowing red hot as the flame hit it for minutes on end. More surprisingly, the egg's shell was no more than warm to the touch after the blowtorch was removed, and when cracked open hadn't even begun to cook. This egg was coated with Starlite, a plastic developed by Maurice Ward who was an eccentric former hairdresser from Hartlepool, northern England.

An article in New Scientist describes how Ward negotiated with the British Department of Defence, Boeing, and even NASA but gained a reputation for being impossible to negotiate with, asking for "£1 million one day, then £10 million the next." He was understandably self-conscious that he might be unable to protect his property in court when fighting with some of the world's biggest companies. His belief in the product never diminished, though, with him even approaching BP to suggest that his material could solve the Deepwater Horizon crisis.

Ward died in 2011 without ever commercializing or patenting his revolutionary material. He suggested in an interview with Utah-based K-Talk radio that his family might hold the key to this strong, heat-proof and non-toxic plastic, but they've been quiet on their plans ever since his passing.