Reverse Engineering Iron Man's Arc Reactor

March 31st, 2014:

Hollywood script writers have been commissioned for psychological studies of terrorists, they have come up with forward-thinking and (way) outsite-the-box solutions to many social and technological boundaries and they have long since inspired engineers to tackle a myriad of new technologies such as those seen here (link to: click here) We as engineers and thinkers are of course motivated by incredible movies and tv shows like Star Trek, RoboCop, Minority Report and Iron Man, to name a few.

In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark prevents shrapnel from reaching his heart by using his “Arc Reactor” technology, which conveniently, also serves to provide enough power to run his exoskeleton and super computer giving him super strength and the ability to fly, amongst many other super-awesome abilities, that if you’re not familiar with, you should watch the movie. (link to: click here)

Marvel, the creators of Iron Man describe the arc reactor as running off of Paladium and “Repulsor Ray” technology.  It is also said to generate upwards of 3 Gigajoules per second.  Initially, nuclear fusion is thought to be something that could be at work here.  Fusion generators are something that has been under development for many decades and although it has not been developed to a usable state as of yet, engineers, and needless to say, the government and military, are hopeful that it will be available within the next 20 years.  At this point, however, reactors will still be the size of very large buildings and not something the size of a hockey puck as in Iron Man’s “Arc Reactor”.  (Reference: Video (link to: click here) from Emory University professor)

So that’s one opinion, other thoughts in the field of “science fiction conjecture” lead us to wonder if maybe Tony Stark has created a type of Beta-Voltaic battery.  Which, as shown in this patent (link to: click here ) by Marvin Tan Xing Haw (specifically inspired by the Arc Reactor) utilizes beta particles from decaying radioisotopes (Uranium-235) in conjunction with semiconductor diodes to create a sort of fission chain reaction resulting in a DC electromotive force, or DC current.  Check out Marvin on Facebook (link to: click here ) to keep up with his progress.

Yet another theory is that of the Tokamak reactor which is used in some fusion research as a method of containing plasma energy into the shape of a torus using a magnetic field which might give this reactor a remarkably similar look to the one implanted into Tony Stark’s chest.

One other potential technology that is important to mention here is that of the LENR, (link to: click here ) or Lattice Energy Nuclear Reactor, which is a scaled-down form of cold fusion which presents potential future possibilities of installing these reactors in homes, cars and airplanes.  The LENR technology, unlike other fission or fusion reactors, uses the “weak nuclear force” as opposed to the “strong nuclear force”.  By creating a lattice of Nickel atoms and introducing Hydrogen at a high frequency (5-30 THz) they are able to create collisions of particles that do not merge atomic nuclei, like in fusion, but actually strip electrons from the Nickel and force them into the Hydrogen ions which creates a slow-moving neutron and simultaneously changes the nickel into copper and release a great deal of energy in the process.  Since there are no fast moving or colliding nuclei, the masses and equipment necessary for this process can be much smaller than other existing and theoretical nuclear generators.

So in other words, they’re working on it!  And while I may never have an arc reactor installed in my chest (boo..) maybe my children will!

- Tim Johnson, Senior Mechanical Deisgn Engineer, Goddard, Inc.