When it comes to fictional gadgets and boy’s toys, they don’t come much cooler than Tony Stark’s suit of armour, which has managed to capture the imaginations of the cinema-going public in a big way through the last two Iron Man films and huge Avengers movie. But could it ever be real? Here we will look at the reality.
The Comics Versus The Films
First of all I should state here that I am going to be looking at the iron man armour as it is portrayed in the films. While the armour started life in the comics it has unfortunately become somewhat far-fetched in this medium in recent times. The most recent iteration of the Iron Man armour for instance is not only stored inside Tony Stark’s bones and able to ‘bleed out’ of him as a liquid, but can also change its form at moment’s notice in order to form huge guns and cannons as Stark thinks of them.
Of course there are a few problems with this, and while nano-tech means that a hard substance thin enough and light enough to store inside our bones could one day exist, current Iron Man scribe Matt Fraction has made no effort to explain how his ‘bleeding edge’ armour might operate.
The Film Armour
So this brings us to the film armour, which is assembled around Tony by something akin to a car assembly line (with the exception of the Mk5 & 7) and which for the most part is quite grounded in science.
The writers of Iron Man one show a good understanding of science by focussing on the arc reactor as the main aspect of Iron Man’s technology – currently an energy source doesn’t exist that could power such a suit without weighing tons and requiring fuelling up. That said, with electric batteries coming on a long way recently, it might not be long until we could see an electric-powered battle suit.
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And actually a walking exoskeleton that improves the users’ strength is something that can already be done when plugged into an external power source. This is something that is being tested for the military, and is already used in some hospitals to help staff to carry disabled patients into their beds.
But that’s obviously not the most impressive part of the Iron Man suit – which is probably the fact that it can fly. So how possible is this?
Well so far it isn’t looking promising. Type ‘real life Iron Man’ into YouTube and what will most likely come up is the Jet Man who uses a suit with wings and a backpack in order to fly. While this works well, the thing is huge and incredibly heavy and it more importantly requires the guy to be dropped out of a plane in order for it to work. And then it doesn’t last that long and is a little more like gliding than it is flying…
Jet packs exist of course, but so far none of them can really last for very long. These require compressed gas such as nitric oxide in order to work, but that means they need to be topped up regularly and again it’s not quite as dynamic as Iron Man.
So what we might see in the future is suits that allow soldiers to carry greater weights on their backs – which will most likely mean some kind of arsenal and greater protection. That’s close to an Iron Man suit, but unfortunately we’re probably a little way off a suit that can fly and not burn off the wearer’s legs at this point.
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