Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (2023)

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  2. Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man

By mspringer on April 29, 2010.

I'm not quite convinced Iron Man is entirely realistic.

Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (2)

"Proposterous!", you say, "Hollywood makes its superhero films to near-documentary accuracy!" No, hear me out. Iron Man can fly, using rockets in his hands and feet. We know from the commercials that the suit can in fact fit in a briefcase and be carried around by hand, so as an estimate let's say the Iron Man suit + Tony Stark weighs 200 pounds even. In more proper physics-style units, that's 889.6 newtons. Just to hover, let alone fly into the air at high speed, his rockets are required to generate at minimum 889.6 newtons of force.

Force, as we know, is equal to the rate of change of momentum. Momentum is conserved, so the force required to keep Tony aloft is equal to the change of momentum of the rocket exhaust as it leaves his thrusters:

Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (3)

And the momentum is just mass times velocity:

Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (4)

But we're interested in dp. the rate of change of momentum. The exhaust velocity v is constant, so dp = v dm, where dm is the amount of mass the rocket spits out in the time interval dt. In other words, we can rewrite the force equation with that substituted in, and dm/dt will be the rate at which the rocket spits out its fuel through the thrusters:

Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (5)

So what's the exhaust velocity? Based on the fact that he doesn't deafen everyone standing near him when he takes off, I'd say it's subsonic, but let's be generous and say v = 330 m/s, which is about the speed of sound in air under normal circumstances. Solving for dm/dt, I get:

Physics, Rockets, and Iron Man (6)

Which is a pretty darn hefty burn rate. We know from the fact that the suit is portable that there aren't all that many kilograms of fuel in the suit to begin with, and even if there were then the thrust (and the burn rate) would have to be higher to get the stored fuel off the ground as well. It's diminishing returns, and one of the reasons rocketry is so expensive. It looks like in real life Tony Stark would probably take off dramatically before ignominiously sputtering out and crashing in a heap. This, incidentally, is one of the major reasons personal jet packs never became practical. (That and the whole "certain death" thing if anything goes wrong.)

Switching to rocket fuel with a higher v is a possibility. A good rocket fuel might have an exhaust velocity of 4000 m/s, with a corresponding burn rate of 0.22 kg/s, which is better. Maybe Iron Man then has a couple minutes of flight before having to call a refueling time out in the heat of battle. The noise factor would be tremendously antisocial to everyone in the vicinity, but that might be an acceptable price to a superhero saving the day. Or showing off at sporting events, whatever.

Alternately the suit might not use rockets at all. Instead it could be a jet engine, pulling in air from the environment, heating it and spitting it out the rocket thrusters. With an appropriate energy source, this could go indefinitely so long as there's air around. The suit doesn't seem to have visible air intakes though, and if the suit has been shown working in space in the comics (confirm/deny, Marvel fans?) then that explanation is right out.

But I have to admit if someone did manage to invent and market a personal rocket suit I'd be the first in line.



(Video) Physics of Iron Man
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The glowing doohicky on his chest generates extremely high circulating currents in the suit, which is made from a high-temperature superconductor. Iron-man is, in effect, a powerful electromagnet. Tony wrote a complex algorithm that lets the suit hover through interaction with the earth's magnetic field (much like a maglev train). The jets in his hands and feet are for steering.

This same principle explains why he doesn't visibly recoil while shooting rockets at the bad guys.

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I think that the latest explanation for Iron Man's flight abilities are that it's an outgrowth of his "repulsor" technology, which utilizes some kind of charged particle field to push things out of the way. Directed at an enemy and they go hurling away. Directed at the ground and he can fly through the air.

Of course I have no idea of how any of that works.

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Yeah, Iron Man flies with his 'repulsors', whatever that means. It's not typical jet propulsion.

Also, the suit in the briefcase is an emergency-use variant - it's visibly less bulky than the normal one.

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Repulsors make more sense from an in-universe perspective, but you wonder why they leave a trail of rocked exhaust (as in the screenshot above) and make a traditional "rocket" sound.

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@Matt at 5

They do that because it looks cooler. Duuuh!

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They push the air so hard that it lights on fire of course!

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(Video) The Science of Iron Man | Aerospace Engineer Reacts

Just to hover, let alone fly into the air at high speed, his rockets are required to generate at minimum 889.6 newtons of force

Are you implying that, in order to fly, your thrust-to-weight ratio must be greater than one? Hmmm.

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If you saw the movie... Stark as prisoner cast a palladium wire loop at a critical moment. Iron Man is powered by cold fusion. Energy is no problem. Working fluid is a problem.

That Iron Man can raise a palm and repulse a tank without Newtonian reaction or counter-thrust suggests the suit is rooted in vacuum zero point fluctuations. Reaction thrust is then fine tuning with air as the working fluid and perhaps coolant. Don't drive a brad with a sledge hammer.

Two big questions: 1) How does the man inside get pounded without transforming into a particuarly poor grade of ground chuck like an asstronaught taking a ÐайконÑÑ/Baikonur sleigh ride atop an Ares booster? 2) How does he pee? One sees a lot of sharp edges OTOH and a lot of wiring OTOH.

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@8: For the scenes where he's flying vertically upward, anyway. In other cases he can improve on this, especially with wings.

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"you wonder why they leave a trail of rocked exhaust"

As is so often the case when faced with the task of evaluating the technological genius, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Tony Stark, we under evaluate the role showmanship as an essential component of success. Clearly, Tony Stark recognizes the importance of product branding.

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@#9: I suppose he has some sort of "inertial dampening". Considering the other crap he pulls off, this is right up his alley.
They bring up the "How do you pee?" question in the movie. It was rather funny.

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I also always figured it was jet propulsion. I mean, he's got megajoules of energy coming out of his chest, why not?

I'll ignore heat issues...

(Video) Rocket Army Truck VS Iron Man Satisfying Jumps & Stunts Realistic Physics Simulation

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It's an Arc Reactor you fool! They made up a fictional power source precisely so fans wouldn't over analyze it.

In the 2nd movie, he makes a new element. Get over it.

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can analysis about the movie iron man 2 to me by using the phyiscs?

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send me messages

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NERDS. get out of ur moms basement. get a girl and a life

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suck penis u fagit

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Ok, arc reactor = TFTR = Tokamak fusion test reactor. Just a little guy though... and actually the model that is in Tony's chest in the movie looks strikingly similar to the new ITER diagrams as in here:…

Also, "rocket trails" = condensation? vapor trails?

And lastly - why do this to yourselves? You will NEVER wear IM armor, nor will you see anyone else wear it in your lifetime. This is fiction, and for entertainment purposes only. As some have stated already, get a life. But also - don't lose your imagination and creativity!

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"Also, "rocket trails" = condensation?" Vapor Trails FTW! Rush at Bell Center Montreal, April 20th!!

"Stark Industries new repulser technology" if it's "new" to Tony Stark, than I'm willing to bet it's not something that your feeble minds can grasp. And at that stage it was a top secret military weapons sale (for the Jericho missile). But whatever. I would imagine that the "repulsers" he uses, take alot of energy to run, due to the fact that Tony initially gets the palladium from 12 seemingly generic "Stark Industries" rockets that supposedly use repulsers in the cave of the first movie. My point being, each of the rockets use repulsers, and I would guess they weigh alot more than Tony and his suite, yet they use 1/12th of the palladium even less than that when he gets his MK2 chest piece. While yes, missiles are 1-use explosive devices, their weight is still an incremental factor.

The repulsers may be focal points which simply channel immense quantities of energy (electricity) and like the ion propulsion system on the Deep Space 1 probe(?) would fire ions out in the opposite direction, but instead of using a heavy gas like Xenon, the repulser uses so much electricity that it can simply use the air in-front of, and around it while still creating a much more powerful thrust than the Ion engine previoulsy mentioned. In this case, we're talking about ALOT of energy. Though while Deep Space 1 runs on solar panels, the Palladium Arc Reactor runs at 3gigajoules per second (aka 10,800,000,000,000 watt hour) approximately. That would run a city of over 150 thousand homes for over a year, and then some! Though my math may be off... Still, if I'm correct, that would be more than enough, if engineered properly, to easily propel a man through the air at mach whatever for X amount of time.

I'm just trying to put into words what may be possible, and what is, for now, just science fiction. I hoe I've explained this thought of mine thoroughly enough. If you have a problem with it, please correct, but never cop out with a statement like "This is fiction, and for entertainment purposes only." no matter how prefaced it may be, that's just horse shit. Oh and try telling it to Martin Cooper, Friedrich Stradonitz, and the more obvious others. While not trying to be a super nerd who lives in his mom's basement trolling on the physics forums, but never discourage the hashing about of thought and theory in any situation, no matter how frivolous or seemingly insignificant the topic. And not trying to be braggadocios or seem conceited (both are characteristics which I despise) but as I sit now at my computer, I am in a 2.5 million dollar house, one of many houses which I have earned by hard, long work, I am an active and avid long distance runner and all round sportsman, yet I read comics regularly, have finished Gears of war 1 and 2 consecutively twice! As well as Assassin's Creed 1, 2, and brotherhood, Uncharted 1 and 2, and almost every game worth playing, I am a GAMER! And I am a NERD! I do not live in my mother's basement, and certainly do not need to "get a life". I'm not saying this in my personal defense, but in defense of all my inter web kinsmen, making such generalizations against us is insulting, and must be discouraged. POWER TO THE PLAYER! POWER TO THE NERD

Thank you for your time.

(Video) Tony stark "when did you became master in thermo nuclear astro physics" The Avengers (2012)

PS: Please do get out of your mom's basement, and get a job.

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if the mass of suit can be brought less using a special element and better fuel can be used than ( noise reduction is not a hiccup any more it can be done easily )iron man can fly smoothly, so no problem!

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These calculations are bit too simple for Iron Man...

Itz gonna be me mAking the Suit =p

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man, you are too meticulous. that's just a movie. have fun

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I find it ironic when someone in their grubby boxers with no life has to pretend that everyone else has to be living in their mom's basement and moreover, that they will obey the exhortations of this grubby little parasite and get out of this supposed mom's basement.

It's amazing what morons will do to make themselves feel better, isn't it?

PS @25: this is fun too. Why do you think books like "The Physics of Star Trek" sell? Because it's fun. Maybe you should take that stick out of your arse and get a sense of humour, hmm? Or at least realise that you are not the arbiter of what is fun and what isn't.

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above all leave iron man. Can we create a flying suit which can cover large distance like 10000+ km and able to land easily?
Are u on facebook?

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above all leave iron man. Can we create a flying suit which can cover large distance like 10000+ km and able to land easily? And we can control it.
Are u on facebook?

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above all leave iron man. Can we create a flying suit which can cover large distance like 10000+ km with great speed like jet and able to land easily? And we can control its direction and speed.
Are u on facebook?

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10000+ km with great speed like jet and able to land easily? And we can control its direction and speed.

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How can one explain all these facts by just classical physics? Considering the fact that everything inside the reactor on Tony's chest was fusion.... an essential phenomenon exhibited by the quantum particles. And if you've passed your 12th grade... you would know well enough that classical physics are just not valid for quantum particles.
But I guess with the technology we have right now, the suit is just a myth.

(Video) Is Iron Man’s Arc Reactor Possible? | StarTalk

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What propulsion system does Iron Man use? ›

Iron Man (film)

Repulsor technology was created by Stark Industries before the events of the movie and utilized in the Jericho Missile system. This technology was then applied as the method of propulsion for Tony Stark's "Pilot without a plane;" the Mark II suit.

Is it possible to make Iron Man thrusters? ›

Iron Man Thrust Boots or Iron Man Jet Boots is one of the hard tasks to work on it (because of its compactness and complex design) with today's technology but it's not impossible either. To start with Iron Man Thrust Boots consist of major components that are Thrust, Fuel, Control, Stability and Steering.

How Aerodynamic is the Iron Man suit? ›

In forward flight, when thrust is only generated from behind, the Iron Man suit essentially acts like a rocket or a plane, except it doesn't have any wings (to generate lift) or fins (for stability), and is about as aerodynamic as, well, a billionaire wrapped in steel.

What science does Iron Man study? ›

Child prodigy (and genetically modified for the good of the human kind), Anthony “Tony” Stark attended MIT at age 15 and got his Masters in physics and engineering at age 20.

Is flying like Iron Man Possible? ›

This is accomplished by printing out Iron Man armor pieces in titanium and then adding the jet suit from Gravity Industries on top of that. Yes, there is a real-life flying suit. It uses multiple small jet engines to provide enough thrust for a human to fly.

Is Arc reactor possible in real life? ›

The concept of the arc reactor doesn't work in real life because it violates the Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy can't be created or destroyed, only transferred. The arc reactors in the MCU are essentially perpetual motion machines, which don't work.

Is Nanotech like Iron Man Possible? ›

it will be possible, but the powersupply is far from your only problem. In theory, his armor, which is called mark 48 “Bleeding Edge”, is just a swarm of really small nanobots. They are stored, not in his bones like in the comics, but within a canister around his ark reactor.

Is Iron Man technology possible? ›

The Iron Man Armour

The answer is yes. In fact, currently, there are many designs of exoskeleton with a few of them looking similar to the Iron Man suit. An example is the HULC hydraulic-powered exoskeleton that gives an individual the capability to carry more than 200 pounds of loads.

How did Iron Man fly without a big tank of fuel? ›

In order for Iron Man to achieve flight he uses jet boots and repulsor rays. The jet boots provide most if not all of the thrust required to propel him at super sonic speeds. The repulsor rays located in the palms of the hands provide stability along with deploy-able flaps located in various parts of the suit.

How can Iron Man fly without wings? ›

You don't need wings if you are not using aerodynamic lift. Like any rocket. You need thrust in two components, horizontal for propulsion and vertical for lift. The lift must equal the total weight for level flight.

How strong is Iron Man's punch? ›

What is surprising is that because Tony's armor is currently compensating for terrible injuries he sustained against Avengers villain Korvac, one bad punch could kill him. Tony can now punch with a force of 40,000 newtons, but if his target doesn't give when he hits it, the blow will literally explode his heart.

How many tons can Iron Man lift? ›

Created when a bio-tech weapon was released on the world, the suit combines the usual external plates with an under-sheath made with nano-tech. The Extremis armor increases Stark's strength to the point that he is able to lift up to 100 tons, the same as a calm Hulk.

What type of physicist is Tony Stark? ›

He has a degree in Mechanical and Electrical engineering and has Robotics from MIT.

What type of technology does Tony Stark use? ›

Over the years, Tony has applied repulsor technology in a myriad of ways, including upgrading S.H.I.E.L.D.'s (Hydra's) helicarrier engines, allowing them to remain airborne permanently.

What was Tony Stark's IQ? ›

Tony Stark IQ is believed to be 270, indicating that he is a super genius. Only 0.1 percent of the population has a score close to that. Tony Stark IQ is comparable to Leonardo da Vinci's.

Is Iron Man Mark 1 possible? ›

The answer is a lot, actually! We could almost exactly copy the original Mark 1 prototype armor from the comics right now today or in the next few years. The Mark 1 above is not very different from Raytheons XOS 2 powered armor suit below. Stronger than a human, and it has heavier armor than a person could carry.

Can scientists make Iron Man suit? ›

Iron Man's suit isn't really made out of iron. That would be too heavy. Instead it is made out of a fictional material that is very light and very strong. Scientists haven't worked out how to make anything like it yet.

Is cold fusion possible? ›

There is currently no accepted theoretical model that would allow cold fusion to occur.

Is a mini arc reactor possible? ›

Can it be built? In short, yes. Teams at MIT are working to create a fusion reactor that would be about 21 feet in diameter. Nowhere near the size of Iron Man's reactor, but still, a relatively small size compared to other power generation systems currently in use.

How strong is 3 gigajoules per second? ›

3 gigajoules per second equals 3 gigawatt. The average American nuclear power plant produces 1 gigawatt. So the arc reactor has a power output 3x higher than an average nuclear power plant. A nuclear aircraft carrier produces 400 Megawatt.

How does Iron Man propel himself? ›

In order for Iron Man to achieve flight he uses jet boots and repulsor rays. The jet boots provide most if not all of the thrust required to propel him at super sonic speeds. The repulsor rays located in the palms of the hands provide stability along with deploy-able flaps located in various parts of the suit.

How do they make Iron Man fly? ›

The Iron Man armor's flight capabilities are due to its jet boots along with repulsor rays built into the gauntlets for stabilization.

How does Iron Man activate his Repulsors? ›

When Iron Man wants to discharge his palm-mounted repulsor rays, he does not have to manually release a safety switch, enter a firing sequence code or even pull a trigger – he just tells the supervillain to "talk to the hand" and fires!

How does Iron Man's arc reactor work? ›

Iron Man's reactor is essentially a fusion reactor that harnesses energy by removing electrons from Hydrogen atoms. This removal of electrons creates an ion plasma, which is the ultimate source of energy.

Is Tony Stark suit magnetic? ›

It's unclear what "anti-magnetic safeguards" are, but it's safe to say they protect Tony from magnetic field manipulation. This version of the Iron Man armor is made of carbon nanotubes, which we can assume is a non-magnetic material.

Can Thor fly without the hammer? ›

Absolutely yes. In fact, there are quite a few misconceptions about Thor's abilities. Even Thor himself was unaware in Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok film.

Does Iron Man's suit Need fuel? ›

The suit is powered by the arc reactor. It takes some air from outside, heats it up to create plasma and accelerate that plasma to generate thrust in the boosters.

Can Iron Man exist in real life? ›

The answer is yes. In fact, currently, there are many designs of exoskeleton with a few of them looking similar to the Iron Man suit. An example is the HULC hydraulic-powered exoskeleton that gives an individual the capability to carry more than 200 pounds of loads.

Is Iron Man nanotech suit possible? ›

Short answer, no. The way nano is shown in the movie is probably not how nano can function. Additionally, it is not just nano or AI that makes the suit. So it is not even accurately scalable what type of things we would need, to make something like that possible.

How fast does an Iron Man fly? ›

The speed limit of the armor is unknown, but most hypervelocity projectiles travel at a maximum speed of between Mach 7.3 and Mach 8.8 (between 5600 mph and 6700 mph), so it's safe to assume that is the range of the armor's top speed.

How strong is Iron Man's laser? ›

How powerful is Iron Man's laser? Mark 6 Iron Man onwards has 200 petawatts lasers (equivalent to 47.8 megatons of TNT per second).

Why Iron Man suit is not possible? ›

The Arc Reactor would probably generate huge amounts of heat, killing anything nearby (including Tony Stark) The Iron Man suit would be impossible without the Arc Reactor.

How strong is Iron Man's Unibeam? ›

Iron Man 3

The Unibeam was powerful enough to completely overwhelm Savin's Extremis powers, disintegrating his chest and vital organs and still travelling for several feet afterwards.

Can Tony Stark live without the arc reactor? ›

While Tony no longer needed the arc reactor to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart after Iron Man 3, it's still necessary to power up his suits.

Why does Tony Stark have a hole in his chest? ›

One day, at a weapon demonstration in Afghanistan, the convoy Tony Stark was in was attacked by a terrorist cell called "The Ten Rings" and Tony was injured and kidnapped. In the attack, a cluster of shrapnel was lodged into Tony Stark's chest, nearly killing him, yet he survived thanks to his fellow captive Dr.

What keeps Tony Stark alive? ›

The arc reactor in his chest was what used to keep him alive when he had shrapnel embedded in his chest. There was an electromagnet to keep the shrapnel from reaching his heart and killing him.


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