Ever wanted to be a superhero? Here's how their powers CAN become a reality
(28 November 2016)
Dr Christopher Donaghy-Spargo, DEI outreach Fellow, says the powers of Batman and Superman could be recreated.
Can the powers of superheroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman ever become a reality?
The answer is yes, according to a North East engineer.
Dr Christopher Donaghy-Spargo, a research fellow in electrical engineering at Durham University, joined a team of top-class engineers to investigate the superpowers of our favourite superheroes and how advances in engineering and technology could make them a reality in the future.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) team predicts that we could soon be able to replicate Spider-Man’s web throwing capability, drive around in Batmobiles or create cloaks of invisibility.
They took to Twitter to answer a host of questions from superhero fans and here are some of their top answers.
Is it possible to create regenerative power like Wolverine?
In the future it could be created by bio-printing – a type of 3D printing that prints cells, which could be used to print new organs eventually.
Are we any closer to actually making a real Iron Man suit?
By looking at the advances in reading brain waves and understanding how these control different actions, engineers could create a suit like this. The suit could be controlled by our minds.
Could we ever climb buildings like Spider-Man?
Scientists have already discovered how to climb walls like geckos. You just need a slightly larger than hand-sized amount of gecko-like material and to work out how to balance the strain of the hanging human in a uniform way.
How can you be made invisible like Invisible Woman?
Engineers could use videos to project whatever is around you onto your clothing - in effect making you become invisible. For example, projecting the sky on the underside of an aeroplane.
Would humans ever be able to understand all languages like Wonder Woman?
This is being developed now and could be done through an earpiece with speech recognition tech (like Siri) but with multiple languages.
What the panel said about individual superheroes
Wonder Woman’s bracelets are indestructible and able to absorb the impact of incoming attacks. We already have bullet proof vests but these only absorb bullets often leaving the wearer injured. To engineer Wonder Woman’s bracelets, carbon nanotubes could be woven to repel the force of attacks rather than absorb it.
Exoskeleton technology will allow us to develop superhuman capabilities like Spider-Man. Exoskeleton technology allows people with spinal cord injuries to walk again and advanced materials could make them lighter and more flexible to resist injury, like Spider-Man. The rise of graphene – the world’s thinnest material – may also allow engineers to develop silk web throwing capabilities.
The process of designing a Batmobile would be very similar to that of any car. After the design phase, various features, including blast and nuclear protection and weapons packaging, would be tested through Computer Aided Engineering (CAE). Finally, the buyer would be able to select the interiors.
Solar panels are bringing us closer to developing powers akin to Superman, whose powers are fuelled by Earth’s yellow star. Superman is essentially a giant solar battery. You can already buy a coat fitted with solar panels to charge your phone, and there’s even a new fabric that uses sunshine and movement to generate electric current. As solar panels get lighter and more flexible, this technology could be used to keep us warm and help us move in the future.
The Invisible Woman
In the future, fabricated artificial materials called ‘metamaterials’ could allow engineers to harness the power of Marvel’s The Invisible Woman. Engineers have recently worked out how in principle to ‘cloak’ objects to make them invisible – by bending the light around them and back onto its original path, they can block the view of the object to the eye.
Speaking at the Tomorrow’s Engineers Week event, Dr Donaghy-Spargo said: “It was great fun answering parents and kids’ questions about superhero powers and looking at how some superhero abilities could become more of a reality through advances in engineering and technology.
“There is a serious message and wider point though, which is that we continue to inspire the next generation of engineers to ensure that places like where I work, at the University of Durham, continue to thrive and innovate.
“We need to ensure that more young people, especially girls, understand the creative and varied jobs available in our sector.”
Article by Mike Kelly first published in the Chronicle 18 November 2016 http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/ever-wanted-superhero-heres-how-12194511