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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Iron Man's Fictional Power Supply - If Only It Really Existed

By Alan Smithee

When I was watching the film, I wondered how the Iron Man suit was powered. It would take an incredible power supply to allow him to fly. At a very minimum I felt that it would have to at least be a 'jet-pack' type of system that we have all seen demonstrated. But it is reasonably bulky. Iron Man's power supply fits in his chest like a Jarvik artificial heart. It is called an arc reactor and the fictional energy mechanism sends the power through his arms and legs and provides thrust for flight. Yet I am still doubtful because thrust is usually provided by hot jet gases, which would require a storage tank.

If it is a nuclear power plant type of source, that could create steam, but you would still need a water supply. The arc reactor is described as generating 12 gigajoules, about 12 gigawatts or about 60 times greater than the power of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. I suppose the arc reactor could instantaneously liquefy oxygen and nitrogen in the air and 'fire it' like a ram jet. If the small perpetual motion-like device can produce such high energy levels without consuming fuel or producing waste heat, then theoretically it could perform the conversion described above.

The fuel or part of the mechanism, (I believe it was called palladium), can be depleted because Iron Man ran low on power in the climactic fight. I guess this solves the perpetual motion machine conundrum because such a device is not possible. Moreover, theoretically, if it is that metal then maybe the arc reactor would pull hydrogen from water vapor in the air because palladium at room temperature and atmospheric pressure can absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen. There could also be a liquid hydrogen/nitrogen mix to combust with the liquid oxygen.
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