Maurice Ward with the latest version of his invention 'Starlite'
A Hartlepool inventor claims a material he created more than 20 years ago could stop the huge BP oil leak off the Gulf of Mexico.
Maurice Ward says his super strong plastic 'Starlite' would be suitable to plug the leaking pipeline.
He also believes the material could be used to prevent future environmental disasters.
The 77-year-old developed the product in the 1980s after hearing about the Manchester Runway Disaster.
BBC Tees' Lee Johnson reports
I find Maurice Ward on his family farm on the outskirts of Hartlepool.
It's here where he spends most of his time, tinkering and experimenting in his lab.
There's a large white cabinet filled with Bunsen burners and tubs filled with white powder. Dotted around the floor are black bin bags filled with slabs of a grey metal looking material.
Out of this world
Maurice had experience in plastics, running a small business with his family, but it was the crash at Manchester Airport in 1985 that was the catalyst behind his creation.
The disaster claimed the lives of 55 people, many were overwhelmed by toxic smoke as fire spread through the cabin.
Maurice says he began to look at ways of avoiding a similar catastrophe:
"We wanted to create something that wouldn't burn and was halogen free.
"In under a couple of years we created something and had it tested at ICI. By 1990 we produced a material that was out of this word, it didn't burn, it didn't produce smoke and it intensified on its strength and its abilities."
Maurice took the plastic to Tomorrow's World, who tested it by wrapping it around an egg and blasting it with a Bunsen burner - amazingly, the egg survived.
'Starlite' was born, and its creator was certain it would change the world.
Defence contractors were keen to take a look at the product. Maurice recalls the time 'Starlite' was tested by the British Atomic Weapons Establishment:
"Nobody had done it anywhere in the world over 45 years, but we did it in our first attempt. We took on a total amount of energy of 75 Hiroshima blasts and it was completely unharmed. We had a lot of interest after that."
Maurice is hoping his super strong plastic will solve the BP oil disaster
That interest never materialised, Maurice says there were complications over licenses and financing the material:
"We wanted to keep the product refined. We've never really been challenging about huge sums of money, we've always insisted the product was kept right".
Make a difference
Two decades on, and as BP continue try to stop hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, Maurice Ward says 'Starlite' could provide a solution:
"We could make an item, a type of room, that could be lowered onto the sea surface, and we could plug the pipe.
"We can create any shape we want with this material, and we can do it virtually instantly. It'll lock onto the pipe irrespective of there being water there."
He says he's contacted BP, and is waiting for a reply. In the meantime, Maurice remains defiant that the plastic he created all those years ago will serve a purpose, and could prevent future environmental disasters.
"Hopefully BP will talk to me, I'm sure it will make a massive difference. It will work, and it's way better than anything else that's around the world."
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