Superheroes have been captivating audiences in print since the 1930s. The astonishing worlds and characters presented in those pages feel fresh due to a recent boom in the film medium. As with many inspiring works of fiction and popular culture, scientists have worked tirelessly to replicate even the most fantastic ideas present in these films. Below are some examples of promising new discoveries, technologies, and experiments inspired by the world of superheroes. Excelsior!
Hardlight in Thor
While not a key element of Thor from the comic series, the cinematic universe imagines the Asgardians as an ancient and technologically savvy race. The Asgardians have mastered physics, time, and space to a point where they have a bridge made from a stretched-out rainbow. But the Bifrost Bridge isn’t just for looks, the light is just as hard as any other building material.
Today’s scientists have achieved something very close to the actual hard-light bridge depicted in the Thor films. In this groundbreaking experiment, scientists bonded billions and billions of atoms together in such a way that they acted as one. Once that was complete, a wire carrying photons (subatomic units of light) was passed near the atom cluster. This caused the photons to pass through the atom and entangle (cluster) themselves. The result? The photons slowed and stuck together as a solid.
Adamantium in The X-Men
No member of the X-Men has a more adoring legion of fans than Weapon X himself, Wolverine. The attitude, the hair, the metal claws. He may not have asked for those metal claws at last defining element, but it’s what makes him unique. The substance in question, adamantium, may soon have a very close real- life counterpart.
Known as Hf-N-C, this alloy is a bond between Hafnium, Nitrogen, and Carbon. The boiling point is a crazy 7,460 degrees Fahrenheit. Boiling point is generally a good indicator of strength and force absorption (malleability). Beyond its high boiling point, the metal is still in the theoretical realm but is planned for synthesis. At that point, its properties will be able to be fully observed and documented. Due to the scarcity of Hafnium, it may be a while before we know anything for certain.
Invisibility in Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four have an assortment of complementary abilities that both help and hinder them in their heroic daily lives. The most directly practical of these is Sue Storm’s ability to become the Invisible Woman.
Some very talented scientists at the UC Berkeley campus have replicated this incredible power on a microscopic scale. An 80-nanometer light-bending cloak was used to obscure a very tiny object. The cloak utilizes nanoantennae and mirrors to refract light around an object and act as a flat mirror despite viewing angle. While similar technology exists at assorted sizes, what makes this truly special is that the cloaking material is flexible and can be viewed from multiple angles. While microscopic today, the scientists behind the study say that this is scalable tech. Imagine how close we are to invisible women, jets, or Kevin Bacons.
Web Fluid in Spider-Man
When we think of Spider-Man swinging his way above the streets of midtown Manhattan, most of us don’t think of how truly amazing the material is that keeps him aloft. It’s taken science until recently to catch up to Ol’ Webhead and mother nature alike. A tough, flexible, fibrous material that can support incredible weight and match it with durability, t. This substance w, upon its creation, could change the world as we know it. Or Adidas could make shoes out of it. Which seems to be the first major commercial application.
While biosteel fiber may someday find some more impressive purpose, it’s making its debut in lightweight, biodegradable sneakers. As far as strength is concerned, the creators claim that a pencil-thick web of biosilk could catch a Boeing 747 filled with passengers, which in no way sounds like a supervillain plot.
ARC reactor in Iron Man
Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy with a seemingly endless stream of cutting-edge technology at his disposal. All that tech consumes a lot of energy, but luckily Tony created a revolutionary technology that generates electricity at a very low power consumption: the ARC Reactor. And in the real world, MIT smarties have theorized something very similar.
The machine is a (relatively) small fusion reactor which depletes the electrons from Hydrogen atoms and creates ion plasma, which can yield a large amount of energy. The design of this particular reactor type is more efficient than many others proposed to this point. So how much so that? It can provide power for itself and 100,000 consumers. Right now, no other fusion reactor design to this point is able to produce more energy than it consumes.