Ironman has a lot of completely imaginary, but really cool, high-tech gadgetry, and it makes for a fun fantasy. Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark with his characteristic sardonic humor, and although we're not that impressed by the now-standard plot twist -- "it's not really the generic terrorists that are the bad buys but (gasp!) the evil multinational corporation (who saw that coming!?)," it's overall a reasonably entertaining little ditty.
But what Ironman is really all about is energy (and of course that fancy suit) - how does he generate it? We'd like to know about that "arc reactor" technology. What we are told by Tony himself is that his original suit generates 3 gigajoules of energy per second. That's pretty good, and interestingly, on the order of what's produced by your typical nuclear power plant in nuclear fission reactions. We would imagine that there has to be some kind of nuclear reactor in that suit of his, although what he uses for fuel isn't clear, and hopefully his reactor has some pretty good shielding or all of his friends are going to get cancer.
He does mention that he needs to collect 1.6 grams of palladium while constructing his prototype suit in the caves of Afghanistan. There are some (synthetic) radioactive forms of palladium, but can they "do fission"? Uranium would be a lot better. Unless...could Tony have perfected "cold fusion"!? In a completely unrepeatable experiment from over a decade ago, nuclear fusion was suggested to have occurred at room temperature (so-called cold fusion) when heavy water (the hydrogen atoms being of the deuterium variety) was placed between palladium electrodes.
Maybe Tony's got a cold fusion reactor in there. You see? Food for discussion for the science geek and everyone else.
Tony's reactor also uses a small amount of energy to power an electromagnet implanted in his heart. We are told that this keeps shrapnel out. It's an interesting idea. However, unless we're missing something, the electromagnet would probably draw the shrapnel in rather than keep it out. The electromagnet would induce a magnetic polarization in the shrapnel, aligning it in the same direction as the magnet's field and drawing it in, in the same way a magnet attracts an initially unpolarized paper clip.
A few other items of interest to ponder:
Nice example of Newton's third law. They seemed to have replaced the "repulsor" rays from the comic book with good old-fashioned rocket propulsion. When you push the fuel out of the suit, it applies an equal and opposite force back on the suit, propelling it in the opposite direction. And maybe that reactor provides sufficient energy to do the job. One troubling item, however: In order to generate sufficient propulsion to travel large distances like Ironman does in the movie, you'd have to force a lot of matter out of the rockets. To do this realistically would require airplane-sized fuel tanks. That would change the look of his suit.
Another alteration to Ironman's suit might be necessary as well. Several times, we see Tony become the victim of the "sudden stop" phenomenon so common in action movies. Notice how many times he crashes into the ground and various other objects at high velocity. What magnitude of forces would he experience during those rapid decelerations? Remember, Tony Stark has no super powers. Those crashes should be fatal. In order to reduce the acceleration you need to increase the time of impact. The illusion is that the suit protects him. It won't, unless it's filled with large air bags, in which case Ironman should look more like the Michelin Man rather than the sleek and streamlined superhero that we know and love.single page
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.