Could You Build a Real Iron Man Suit? | The Science of Iron Man
Build an Iron Man Suit?
How would you build a real Iron Man suit? Could it even be done? The science behind Iron Man's suit looks about as accurate as the rest of the science in Marvel Comics - not very - but is it? Can you build your own Iron Man suit?
Let's take a look at some of the (possibly surprising) answers to these questions:
Would You Want Your Own Iron Man Suit?
Before we get started on building our hypothetical Iron Man suit, we need to know what kind of technology is in Iron Man's armour. Here's a rundown of the essential components of the current Iron Man armour (as decided by me, basically. Feel free to disagree).
- An arc-reactor.
- Jet boots, capable of near-space flight.
- Repulsor beams.
- A computer system with near-human intelligence, or a super-advanced personal navigation system.
- A brilliant if difficult billionaire to fly it (optional, but if you've got a spare you don't want, I'll have him)
A cave and a box of scraps.
The Arc Reactor - Can't Build an Iron Man Suit Without a Power Source
So, Iron Man's 'arc reactor' is actually just a fusion reactor with a cooler sounding name and a lot of hype - at base, it makes a lot of power by way of nuclear fusion. You may have heard of nuclear power before - it's not exactly uncommon in a lot of places in the world. What makes Tony's invention special is that it's very small, and very powerful. Only a handful of years ago, fusion reaction seemed like science fiction - but now it's quickly becoming common science. Check out some of the theory to see for yourself:
- "How Nuclear Fusion Reactors Work"
Fusion reactors will use abundant sources of fuel, will not leak radiation above normal background levels, and will produce less radioactive waste than current fission reactors. Learn about this promising power source.
- How to Build a $1000 Fusion Reactor in Your Basement
Admittedly, the project is a little dangerous-not because of a few little fusion reactions but because of the the very flammable gas and voltages high enough to instantly kill you.
- The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor, And How to Make It Work
An article from as early as 1998 demonstrating that nuclear fusion isn't as unlikely a power source as you might be tempted to think.
It's not an Iron Man Suit Without Jet Boots
The jet boots might be the most unrealistic part of the Iron Man suit. Seems strange to say that an arc reactor is potentially in the pipeline and somehow, there's no boots to go with it (though the dilemma of having no shoes to go with your outfit is not one unknown to me), but it's true: for reasons best known to smarter people, we've never really been able to build jet boots without, y'know, setting stuff on fire or killing ourselves.
Or have we...?
Maybe. Sort of. Depends. There's no clear explanation in the comics about how Iron Man's repulsor beams work, but we can take some guesses. The best guess, if you ask me, is that it's a classic repulsor beam - the opposite of the popular sci-fi concept of the tractor beam. And those, well, you might be surprised by how far they've come. How hard could it be to stick a reverse switch on it?
- iTWire - Tractor Beam Moves Larger Objects Longer Distances
Scientists at Australian National University have invented a Tractor Beam that can move larger objects than what could be transported in the past. And, the new tractor beam can move these objects about a meter or so with only the use of laser light.
Artificial Intelligence - Could J.A.R.V.I.S Really Exist?
Is it possible to build a computer with near-human intelligence that could help us fly a real Iron Man suit? Remembering that we're not talking about building an artificial human here; just a machine that could interface with us directly and make smart plans about how to fly our cool new Iron Man suit, do you think it could be done?
We've already built it. A modified missile guidance system coupled with a voice interface (not new technology - I'll bet you have it on your hands-free device) would provide the same effect. Sarcasm not necessarily included, but that might be a good thing. We could probably get Paul Bettany to do the voice...
- Missile Guidance for Dummies
This is transcribed from an Air Force training video on the topic of missile guidance.
- Precision Missile Guidance using Radar/Video Sensor Fusion with a Communication Constraint
Veerachai Malyavej, Ian R. Manchester, Andrey V. Savkin School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications
- Voice Activated Software
Voice activated software works on the principle that you can talk to the computer by giving commands that it will perform such as opening a programme, browsing the internet, accessing databases etc. ...
But This is All Fantasy, Right? You Can't Build a Real Iron Man Suit
Can't you? If you've gotten this far and you're still not convinced that one day, we could build a real Iron Man suit, maybe someone else a little more persuasive (possibly with some letters after their name that mean Impressive Things) can get you on board:
- Iron Man's Suit Defies Physics -- Mostly
Physics professor and Physics of Superheroes author James Kakalios explains how Iron Man's high-tech suit might actually work.
- Marvel Science: Iron Man's Armor | Iron Man | Comic News | News | Marvel.com
Want some real-world scientific theory behind Iron Man's armor? Get it now!
- Real Life Iron-Man Suit for Soldiers | Gadget Lab | Wired.com
When I saw this Raytheon XOS 2 suit, I immediately thought of the scene in Iron Man 2 where a poor volunteer soldier is almost broken in two...