Quote:Starlite, the nuclear blast-defying plastic that could change the world
Two decades ago amateur scientist Maurice Ward invented a material that could resist the force of 75 Hiroshimas. So why haven't we all heard about it?
The defence establishment was watching. In July that year, Ward was invited to the British Atomic Weapons Establishment at Foulness, and the egg went nuclear. 'They'd been trying to get something to withstand a nuclear flash for 45 years, and we did it in five minutes.' Ward was reluctant to take part at first. 'I was happy with my egg. It was just a challenge and I didn't want to lose.' This was a different league. Starlite-coated eggs were subjected to light-energy sources that simulated a nuclear flash, equivalent to a temperature of 10,000 C. 'They did it twice and it was still there. Charred, but intact.' The Foulness equipment couldn't keep up. 'I said to one scientist, "Are we doing all right?", and he burst out laughing. He said, "Normally, we do a test every couple of hours because we have to wait for it to cool down. We're doing it every 10 minutes, and it's sat there laughing at us."' Most materials vaporise beyond 2,000 C. Pure carbon, which has the highest melting point of all elements, melts at 3,500 C. Starlite was withstanding temperatures and forces that physics and thermodynamics dictated it shouldn't. Even with tests from unquestionable authorities like AWE, people were sceptical. 'Some people called me a shyster. But they are blinkered. We've got video: We can show you.'
In June 1991, a sample was sent to White Sands atomic weapons testing site in New Mexico, in the care of the SAS, and subjected to a simulated nuclear onslaught. 'It was classed as the biggest bang in town. I've seen a video [on which] it shredded forest to sawdust, rolled some tanks around, stripped an aircraft into pieces.' But Starlite survived. Further tests at Foulness had subjected it to the force of 75 Hiroshimas, and it survived that, too. NASA publicly raved about its potential, with spokesman Rudi Narangor revealing that 'We have done a lot of evaluation and … we know all the tremendous possibilities that this material has.' And yet still no agreement was signed. 'Maurice,' says Greenbury, 'is a one-man band. He's an inventor, and he has an unusual way of looking at things. It has proved to be very difficult to deal with large companies. There hasn't been a meeting of minds.'
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