Interesting

Building a real Iron Man suit, from an engineering perspective? Are we close?

ironman-suit iron man suit

We are nowhere near building the Iron Man suit. Nowhere. Not even slightly.

An exoskeleton that enables humans to lift substantially heavier weights in specific circumstances? Yes. But not a suit. A suit that supports breathing capabilities? Sure, with HUMONGOUS oxygen tanks attached to it, for a couple of hours.

Time to break down why we just can’t have nice things… yet.

We won’t be discussing the nanoparticle suit as it is obviously impossible with the technology available now. Just the 5 fundamental issues of the Mark I Suit will do.

Fully enclosed Iron Man suit:

The closest we have gotten is probably this suit which can fly:

But a suit that is fully enclosed cannot be made as of yet. This means that the suit should be able to seal against pressure, air, water.

Inertia Dampening

Do you remember how Tony Stark died instantly when he “hero landed” every single time? Yep, neither did I. Without inertia dampening, the suit could kill you instantly even if it could do everything else as shown in the movies. It is one of the most vital features to make a safe and wearable suit. 

Iron_Man_Expo_Landing

Image Source: Wikia

The suit must have the ability to dampen the effects of sudden movement- serious sudden changes to vectors that even shock padding is not enough to dampen the effects of it. We are discussing a contraption, an electronic framework that some way or another creates or refutes the impacts of power and gravity – in a flash. It’s what might as well be called a “flood defender”. It needs to brace down and secure in nanoseconds and produce a power that we don’t know how to create electronically. Put one of these in an automobile and you could pummel into a block divider with exceptionally minor wounds assuming any. 

Oh, and don’t forget. The same capabilities must somehow be working on any other person Iron Man is saving as well, i.e. when Pepper Potts outside the suit was zipped away by Tony Stark, or when he grabbed Legolas *ahem* we meant Hawkeye.

Strength actuators

The suit does what our best exoskeletons can do – by a factor of at least 50, and it is just a couple of inches in thickness around his body. That implies every one of the joints has the unique actuators that enable the suit to move and press against objects with a power that we can’t even produce with a monstrous exoskeleton (fueled remotely). In fact, only hydraulics can get anywhere near that level strength. We are exploring different avenues such as elastic band like electronic muscles, but this technology is incapable of moving much weight either.

The suit does what our best exoskeletons can do – by a factor of 50 or more, and it is only a few inches in thickness around his body. That means all the joints have the special actuators that allow the suit to move and press against objects with a force that we can’t even generate with a giant exoskeleton that has to be powered externally, and stuff that gets anywhere near that strength are all hydraulic. His suit has electronic motor type actuators. We are experimenting with these rubber band like electronic muscles, but we can’t move tons with them.

Self-contained

The suit is independent. Which means it has a source of power to sustain itself (yes it’s in his chest (or was) however subsequent suits have it built in too). It creates a breathable environment, reuses his exhalations, maintains humidity and utilises a little little power source. The ARC reactor is a bit of innovation that would resolve a large portion of our energy requirements. This small gadget generates energy to the extent that is unfathomable and obviously delivers no waste, and no heat.

Exotic materials

For the suit to be as robust as it seems to be, to repulse physical laws, to withstand the physical stresses of lifting vehicles or punching through cement or being hit with a huge sword you require extraordinary/out-of-this-world materials. It must be extremely hard yet not breakable. And it has to be lightweight too. The suit is made of a gold-titanium combination. We don’t have anything remotely like that. Of course, we have some cool earthenware ceramics, some steel that has other stuff blended in. That’s about as good as it can get.

 

So there you have it, there are definitely more features of the suit that are completely out of our reach. Some problems beyond the tip of the iceberg include Actual Holographic displays, Jarvis and Repulsors. The list goes on and on. 

 

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