Even though he’s the most plausible superhero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man’s abilities are still the stuff of good old science fiction. How can one man fly around in a heavy suit of armor powered by an arc reactor which generates enough energy to light up a Christmas tree a million times over?

As explained by YouTube channel the Hacksmith, it just isn’t feasible to create a machine that generates more energy thaen it uses. Nevertheless, the Hacksmith takes a stab at building his own miniature arc reactor.

YouTube video

After doing some serious math, he concludes it will take 723,900 volts of electricity to power an arc reactor with a circumference of 24.1cm. Using ten transformers, each producing about 80,000 volts each, a real-life arc reactor connected to a power source might actually be doable.

real life arc reactor

Sticking the electrical wires close to each other is a necessity; otherwise, the voltage passing through them won’t arc together (hence the “arc” part of the arc reactor). This generates a lot of heat from the transformers as well as the components that direct the electricity.

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It takes ten of these homemade modules to power the machine, all of them connected to a relay bank which controls their voltage via an Arduino microcontroller. A lithium polymer battery then supplies the power.

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Though it sounds simple, connecting all the modules to the Arduino and then to the arc reactor takes a lot of wiring. But after sorting through all the electrical components, it turns out the reactor is a working (and noisy) success.

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Now it’s just a matter of making the working product look nice. Next, they craft the final shell of the arc reactor to house all of the electrical components.

real life arc reactor

The finished arc reactor has a power output of 20 amps which… might be enough to keep shrapnel from entering a person’s heart but is insufficient to power a high-tech suit of armor. Turning on this miniature electricity generator also makes the room sound like someone stepped on a beehive, as you can barely hear above the noise.

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To finish things off, the guys put the arc reactor in a portable case that allows it to slowly power small devices such as phones, tablets, and an electric razor. It might not make great strides in the field of sustainable energy, but at least it works!

The Hacksmith YouTube channel has tons more videos in which they try to recreate your favorite geeky tech. Be sure to check them out!


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.