Lost Technology? – Starlite

This is an odd story to me. You would think the combined efforts of military and research budgets would have been able to crack this case, but allegedly hasn’t. So the story goes anyway.

Created by a man named Maurice Ward, it was apparently featured in an episode of Tomorrow’s World in 1990, where it’s described as a plastic and shown doing such amazing things as protecting aerospace honeycomb composites and eggs from the heat of a blowtorch. Using a surprisingly thin layer as well. In fact, that particular YouTube channel was allegedly his and features a few different videos. He also had a blog around the same time, with some of the same videos linked, as well as some still images and documents.

Unfortunately, everything about this sets off a variety of snake oil alarms. The material itself seems quite remarkable, shielding a variety of objects, but usually an egg, from extreme temperatures. Some of the proposed tests are well above and beyond the propane torch so often seen, allegedly being arcs of several thousand degrees C. It has a weight of around 1 gram per cubic cm, but generally is used in a layer described as 1mm thick. It’s been claimed to produce no significant toxic off-gassing and is safe to eat, at least for dogs and horses.

It seems like a miracle of material science, both at the time of it’s conception in the 80s and now, for that matter. It could be, sure, but that sort of instant discovery of super performing materials generally isn’t real. Most of them are the product of decades of research by many people. This was supposedly done by an amateur hobbyist inspired by the 1985 Manchester Air Crash.¬†As a result he kept putting different combinations of stuff through his extruder until he found something that performed interestingly.

The resulting material, ultimately called Starlite, became an extremely closely guarded secret. He allegedly never let so much as one sample out of his sight. This would certainly make it difficult to commercialize, and I suspect partially explains why it wasn’t. It’s also another red flag that it was never tested independently, but only under his direct supervision.

He died in 2011. While his wife and children allegedly know the formula, they’ve not come forward in the time since. It seems more likely at this point that the secret of the true nature of Starlite went to the grave with him. To that end, it’s regarded as lost.

Or, at least, it was. About a month ago now, the YouTube channel NightHawkInLight posted a video in which he believes he’s found a material similar to Starlite, but made from a few common and easily obtainable ingredients. 9 parts corn starch, 1 part baking soda, and enough PVA glue to turn it into a putty. It’s impossible to know for sure if this is Starlite, or in any way similar, but it has a few things in common. It certainly appears similar. The insane man pointing a propane torch at a piece held in his hand seems to support the idea that it functions similarly.

There’s an additional video of him melting some pennies on top of it. Then, more recently the Beyond the Press channel did a couple of videos as well. One with an oxy-acetylene torch and another with some thermite. It performed surprisingly well with both. His thermal camera seemed to measure around 200C on the bottom during the thermite burn, which is surprisingly high, certainly not enough to keep an egg raw, but the oxy-acetylene torch should have actually been hotter at 3500C vs thermite’s 2200, so it may not have been reading properly.

I’m honestly considering messing around with it, and the underlying formula, myself. Not for anything practical though. Instead of watching these guys on YouTube burn themselves and/or their property I wouldn’t mind seeing it for myself. Seeing isn’t believing, but it sure does help. If it really takes off I’m sure I’ll be able to watch stupid people set their garages on fire trying it.

Y’all take care and stay safe. Don’t try any of these things at home. It’s a bad idea not fit for sane people.