The Iron Man suit is one of the biggest “marvels” (wink wink) of the comic book age. One design led to progressive advancements in the technology to allow for an entire army of suits. From the Bleeding Edge to the Hulkbuster, Tony Stark has a plan for every situation and every bad guy that comes to Earth.
In order to power something as impressive and demanding as an Iron Man suit though, Mr. Stark needed to come up with some way that was more than just mere electricity. If it ran on that, it would be corruptible and vulnerable to all kinds of interruptions in the heat of battle, especially when you take those electric supervillains into account.
This is what led Stark to create the arc reactor: a pure power source that would be strong and clean enough to run every model of the Iron Man suit. Luckily for him, it also keeps him alive, preventing a grouping of shrapnel from piercing his heart. The arc reactor will always be with him, which makes it inherently easier to get battle-ready.
While impressive, there is still much more to the arc reactor that you probably don’t know about. It’s got a lot of other neat tricks it can do, and some of its history is pretty fascinating as well. The arc reactor has only continued to evolve in its years in Marvel Comics, and these are ten things you didn’t know about it.
10. 100% Clean Energy Source
The benefits of clean energy are insurmountable, and it’s something that scientists hope to fully achieve one day. Until then, we’re stuck with normal electricity, which is useful, but still takes its toll on the environment while at the same time is able to be tampered with. Tony Stark’s arc reactor leaves this all behind. The technology is 100% clean, and has a multitude of uses as such. However, Stark keeps it under wraps so nobody tries to steal his idea and produce it in the mass market. He’d make a lot of money if he could sell it though.
9. Pepper Was Healed By It
Zeke Stane was the son of Stark’s rival, Obadiah Stane, and wanted to get revenge for his father’s death. He commissioned a suicide bomb attack to kill Pepper Potts. Instead, the tragedy gravely injured her; similar to what the shrapnel did to Tony. Wanting to save the love of his life, Stark put together an arc reactor for her which not only allowed her to heal quickly, but also to learn to control the reactor herself. This led to her being able to manipulate the magnetic field around her, granting her powers of protection and levitation.
8. Howard Stark Designed it (In The MCU)
All of the greatest intelligent minds have had some form of influence to start their work; for Tony it was his father. After all, he didn’t come up with the arc reactor on his own. The idea originally sprang from Howard Stark’s mind. He put together a schematic with Anton Vanko and the result was beautiful. He then realized that this technology could render nuclear power obsolete, but Vanko wanted to profit from it. Howard had Vanko deported and the design never came to fruition…until Tony, that is, who even miniaturized the tech.
7. It Powers Stark Tower
Stark Tower is heralded by some as the monument to Tony’s ego. That’s probably true, but there’s no denying that it’s quite impressive, especially when you take into account how it is powered. Tony constructed a larger version of the arc reactor to fully power his building, and as a result, it is run by clean energy. Later, in some realities, this tower would become Avenger’s Tower, and having it ran only by pure energy is probably something even Captain America could appreciate. Imagine what the reactor could power if Tony allowed it to be used by others.
6. Immune To EMP
Tony knew that if the arc reactor was going to power the Iron Man suit, he would need a way to protect himself from electric supervillains and EMP. So with the reactor running clean energy, this would easily be protected against any pulses that would down electronic devices, since the reactor isn’t electricity. Instead, what happens is, before the suit fully shuts down, it instantly restarts itself, so that Tony is unharmed and still ready for the fight. What probably happens is that the suit dumps all of the heated charges from the EMP into a cooling system. Heck, I’d be surprised if he didn’t have some way of utilizing the EMP to recharge his suit.
5. Made Of Vibranium
It seems like if you want to be an impressive object or character in the Marvel Universe, you have to be made of some form of Vibranium or Adamantium (unless we’re talking about the Infinity Gauntlet, of course). Being one of the most durable and light substances in the world, it’s difficult to see how a Vibranium arc reactor would help out Stark unless he took a direct shot to the chest. Perhaps it’s one of those “last measures of defense” type of things. Regardless, it does protect him and his suit very well.
4. It Powers An Electromagnet Inside Tony
Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the first Iron Man in a long time, but it always seemed to me like it was the arc reactor itself that kept the shrapnel from Tony’s heart, which wasn’t too weird because of comic book logic. However, the mini-version that sits inside his chest actually powers an electromagnet which constantly stops the shrapnel from moving. Going to all of that trouble to power a magnet seems like it’d be a lot of work in the long run, but I suppose if something is worth doing, then it’s worth overdoing.
3. It Can Grant Super Abilities
As per the case with Pepper Potts, the arc reactor can grant super abilities to whoever uses it. The theory behind this is that whatever leftover power the reactor isn’t using is diverted to the bearer of it. In Stark’s case, the reactor gives him a higher IQ, enhanced reflexes, a strong metabolism, and better fighting ability. This is best showcased in the Avengers Assemble cartoon, where Stark is shown being more physically adept despite being stripped of his armor in some cases.
2. It Can Be Used As A Bomb
One of the reasons Tony Stark refuses to allow others to utilize the arc reactor technology is that it can also function as a powerful bomb. Placed in there (particularly as a fail safe), it is essentially a last resort for Stark. If push came to shove, he could just blow the thing up, and people would never be able to get their hands on his tech. This definitely concerned some individuals though, and that function was eventually done away with. Perhaps they didn’t want another Stanford Incident on their hands.
1. It Has Not Been Replicated
Ever since people in the Marvel Universe caught sight of Tony Stark’s astounding invention, there have been multiple attempts to replicate it. Some have been able to use the technology, but only after stealing one of Tony’s. The arc reactor itself has never been fully and successfully copied. This definitely speaks volumes to Stark’s intelligence. Although, this obviously also feeds into his ego a little bit. Despite the useful applications the reactor could bring to the world, it’s probably for the best that Stark never let it fall into anyone else’s grasp.