Is Real World Iron Man Tech Possible?

Was Tony Stark, that cool exec with a heart of steel, on to something when he came up with the idea of the ARC Reactor, the life-saving device that also powers the Iron Man armor in the MCU? Let’s take a look…

“Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave, with a bunch of scraps!”

Yes, Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane is both furious and incredulous when he delivers that line in 2008’s blockbuster and zeitgeist-defining Iron Man movie. If we’re being real, we’ve often wondered about that, as well. Never mind the less than ideal circumstances under which Tony Stark designed and built the power source for the Iron Man armor, not to mention its dual nature as a lifesaving device and an incredibly efficient fusion-type power generator. Oh, and then there’s the fact that its basis is an entirely new element, known as palladium in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Yes, despite the MCU’s admirable commitment to internal consistency and logic, we admit that the ARC Reactor is a lot to swallow. But that doesn’t mean we love it any less! And when we love something at Does it Fly? that’s our cue to dig into both the science and story logic behind it to see if it flies…just like some repulsor-powered jet boots.

In this episode we look at everything from the elemental nature of the power source to the amount of force the reactor might constantly be generating (not to mention how that would function when surgically embedded in a human body) to the philosophical and ethical questions raised around superhero-level technology in the real world. Want to find out if Iron Man really flies? This episode is for you!


At minimum, to understand this episode, you should probably have watched the first Iron Man (2008) movie, which is also the very first movie in what would later become known as the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re assuming that if you’re on this page and you’ve read this far, you’ve already done that. But limiting us to that would be no fun at all, so Does it Fly? is proud to present (in the tradition of our Planet of the Apes saga complete and correct viewing order) the complete and official guide to Tony Stark’s entire saga on screen in the MCU.

If you’ve never watched a single MCU flick and just want to follow Iron Man’s adventures, this is the way to do it in the correct order. We promise you’ll see every imaginable use of the ARC Reactor by the end of it. And just for fun, we’re even including a guide to all the different ARC Reactors used in each of these films!

Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

The Avengers (2012)

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)


Do you want to delve a little deeper into the facts, concepts, and stories Hakeem and Tamara referenced in today’s episode? Here are a few recommendations!

Tokamak Fusion Reactor

“An ARC reactor is something that actually exists, we call it a tokamak reactor. It probably weighs thousands of tons, and they’ve barely solved the big problem of plasma crashes. These things…have been in development for decades and they’re notorious for these plasma instabilities. It must generate a plasma in order to generate fusion…”


“The issue is the byproducts, like radiation. Fusion has less radiation than fission does. But you still want to avoid as many byproducts as possible.”

See also: Tritium

Quantum Tunneling

“You have to have a lot of energy, high intensity, and high temperature.”

See also: Net positive fusion and Cyclotron

“The Intersection Between Genius and Access”

“It’s scientifically proven…they used who gets a patent as the metric for scientific success. And guess who gets a patent? Those who in their childhood were exposed to patent-getters.”


Can’t get enough of The Boys, now in its fourth season on Prime Video? Well then you certainly won’t want to miss our episode detailing how Starlight’s powers might work!

And in case you missed it, with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes still in theaters, don’t miss our deep dive into whether that movie series might be an unsettling depiction of our actual future!


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