Starlite: Super Material That Protects Hands from Pesky Blowtorches

A super-material that’s non-toxic, highly flame resistant, and a good enough insulator, you can literally hold fire in your hand? Our interest was definitely caught by [NightHawkInLight] and his recent video about Starlite, embedded below the break.

Starlite was the brainchild of English hairdresser, [Maurice Ward]. The famous demo was an egg, coated in Starlite, and blasted with a blowtorch for a full 5 minutes. After heating, he cracked the egg to show it still raw. The inventor died in 2011, and apparently the recipe for Starlite died with him.

[NightHawkInLight] realized he had already made something very similar, the Pharoah’s Serpent demonstration, also known as a black snake. In both examples, a carbon foam is produced, providing flame resistance and insulation. A bit of trial and error later, and he’s out doing the original Starlight demo, pointing the blow torch at his hand instead of an egg.

We’ve covered [NightHawkInLight]’s projects before. A couple favorites are his Propane-Powered Plasma Rifle, and wood gas-powered motorized bicycle.

41 thoughts on “Starlite: Super Material That Protects Hands from Pesky Blowtorches

      1. Neat… same gentleman that did the “How To Mod A Cheap Action Camera To Use C-Mount Lenses For Infrared Videography & Time Lapse” a quite a few other great vids I’ve watched before. The Pharaohs Serpent I was under the impression is more nasty of a material I don’t recommend using… (I’ll use this video to get the point across):
        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC3o2KgQstA&w=470&h=265]

        1. There are several variants of “Pharoh’s Serpent” effects. The famous and nasty one uses Mercury thiocyanate. The commercial version “Black Magic Snakes” uses a form of partially nitrated pitch. And several versions that used to appear in “Chemistry Experiment” type books use sugar…

  1. Think we could see someday an extreme skydiver wearing a body suit made of Starlite, riding on a rocket to get to, oh say, 100 miles up into space, then descend like a typical skydiver? Or would the pressure kill?

      1. which material do you have in mind?
        Ablative shields use very dense fiber reinforced phenolic resin, “reusable” heatshields were either CFRC (carbon fiber reinforced carbon), which is stupidly expensive or silicon oxide foam, which is about as tough as dishwashing sponge (except it crumbles instead of flexing)…
        Neither of these can be really called a ceramic…

        And then there’s Space X’s Starship, which will apparently use 300 series stainless steel :D

    1. There was a system called MOOSE which was explored in the 60s that used foam as an ablative heat shield. Basically, an astronaut would climb into a plastic bag, open up a canister of expanding foam and the bag would form it into a re-entry vehicle. They would then burn retrograde with a small rocket and re-enter the atmosphere in perhaps the most butt-puckering experience imaginable.

    2. More likely it would be a lack of pressure that would kill, at the suggested at or above the suggested altitude Seems like friction would be require to create the protective layer, after which friction would abrade away the protection. If this was a part of a pressurized suit such free fall would have to be planned carefully.

      1. reentry heating isn’t caused by friction itself (at least not by any noticeable amount)…nearly all of it comes from the air being heated because it gets compressed by Mach effects (shockwave)…

        And as for freefalling from 100miles vertically – the skydiver would rapidly descend through the thin air layers without slowing down very much and hit the denser parts at great speed -> aerodynamic effects would not be pleasant.
        Also, rotation along the vertical axis is a problem when jumping from up high.

  2. please try to add Borax, and see how it works. Together with the PVA it is basicly Slime like the kids make, and will keep its elasticty much longer. That could be a usefull property as protective gear perhaps

    1. I was wondering what magnesium oxide or maybe a more stable that isn’t hydroscopic aluminum, zirconium or titanium oxide in the carbon matrix would do to performance. The latest record breakers are the graphene aerogels… though graphite, silica and hybrids between the two rank. Neat video and formula and I wonder like maybe he’s come up with an improvised way to make some other forms of carbon alliotropes or polymorphs.

    1. Instead place sodium bicarbonate around it…releases CO2 when heated, choking the fire…if you add sugar as well, it will form foam (see black snake experiment)

      Insulating a box with the fire inside will just make it burn even hotter, it will only give you more time to do something about it.

  3. Given all the wildfire threats in recent years could I paint my fence and my house with this and have it survive the wildfires?

    It doesn’t seem like it’s made of expensive materials at all so mixing up a batch large enough to protect a house would probably cost a few hunderd dollars only.

    1. (assuming any wiring in your attic and light boxes are good for it – if not, upgrade)
      Convert your roof from a Cold Roof with shingles to a Hot Roof with metal and external fire-rated insulation. Put same on sides. Use fire-rated windows, like those rated in California and were used in some of the homes that survived in Paradise, Butte County, CA. The window glass wasn’t destroyed by the heat and didn’t let flames nor embers inside to ignite the interior.

      o Remove your roof shingles.
      o Remove roof vents.
      o If you don’t have a proper vapour barrier between the living space and the attic: remove a roof sheathing panel as needed to get access to remove enough attic insulation to get in and put a tiny bead of spray foam, acoustic sealer or other suitable sealer, between the wood and the ceiling drywall; paint the ceiling in the living space with a vapour proofing paint (not regular latex paint).
      o Cut the eaves off, add plywood plates to complete roof trusses if necessary, sealing openings with plywood.
      o Add one or two gable vents (or a single roof vent at peak if no gables), tiny openings (a few square inches max), fine mesh screens to keep embers & sparks out, covered/boxed with a metal flashing that only the bottom is open. This is for humidity flow – NOT air flow.
      o Waterproof membrane on roof.
      o Remove siding.
      o Fire-rated rigid or semi-rigid external insulation sheets, like mineral wool, go on the sides of the structure.
      o Install metal roofing and metal siding.
      o Fill attic with blown cellulose or blown mineral wool, living six inches unfilled at the peak so there’s an air channel above the insulation leading to the humidity vents. There may be code on Hot Roofs in your jurisdiction. See if you can add a sealed layer of waterproof vapour-passing wrap across the inside of the humidity-vents, to slow humidity infiltration on humid days. It will dry to the outside through the vent anyways, but if you can…

      Now heat radiated at your structure can’t ignite shingles, eaves, siding, wall sheathing, nor are there vents or soffits to let embers in. Embers on the roof can’t ignite the sheathing under the insulation.

      And you have hugely improved attic insulation and improved side insulation, with a continuous insulation from roof to side. The only thermal breaks are the fasteners for the metal roofing and siding, plus at the windows (get great windows and seal the installation well).

  4. I remember that Tomorrows World episode Starlite was featured in.
    Shame the guy was too paranoid to patent and develop the material. If it lived up to the hype under testing then he’d have been one of the richest men in the world, so his paranoia was somewhat understandable.
    However I always felt that it was down to some flaw that he knew about that meant it only worked in very specific use cases and meant it wasn’t as revolutionary as it seemed to be.

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