Do you remember Starlite, the supposedly nuclear-bomb-proof plastic created by Maurice Ward, who we described back in 1994 as an "eccentric inventor, horse-racing enthusiast, former plastics recycler and one-time hairdresser"? The London Telegraph remembers, and it has an amusing feature story on Ward and Starlite on its Web site today. Ward is still quite a character. He meets a reporter and shows off a chunk of Starlite with a small charred mark, which Ward claims is the result of a nuclear blast. Despite a rush of publicity 15 years ago, Starlite has not been commercialized. The Telegraph story chalks that up, in part, to the failure to finalize a deal with Boeing Co.
Publicity stopped when Ward entered into talks with Boeing in the late Nineties (and, according to Ward, involved researching using Starlite to protect Air Force One from a nuclear flash). They were almost successful. Contracts were drawn up, though no figures were written down. 'They used x and y on the documents, but figures were being bandied about of between a hundred million and half a billion.' ... Negotiations collapsed, says Ward, because Boeing got into trouble (there were accusations of industrial espionage and the CEO was forced to resign). He surfaced from Boeing to find that no one was knocking on his door any more. 'Boeing asked us not to talk to anybody else. It was a huge mistake, because it stopped all the opposition coming to us, too.' He sounds resigned -- 'It's quite a tale of woe, isn't it?' -- but also somewhat a changed man.I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up on the Starlite saga. But I wish that the Telegraph story had included more independent verification of Ward's story. When Plastics News wrote about the material back in 1994, we found a few examples where comment from third-party sources helped to paint a clearer picture of what was going on. For more information on Starlite, check out the company's bare-bones Web site, and Ward's blog, which includes photos and video.