Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

The US government once genuinely tried to build an Iron-Man atomic heart


Anyone who's watched the new Captain America: Civil War (you should, it's ace) will almost certainly have had this thought process at one point during its climactic battles: Tony Stark isn't really a superhero. 

Sure, he's smart. Super smart. And super rich. But he owes all his 'power' to an atomic reactor strapped into his chest, powering a small electromagnet that... well, you've seen the film. 

And so, it would seem, has the US government. Back in 1967, two government-funded teams from the National Heart Institute (NHI) and the Atomic Energy Agency (AEC) set about trying to build an 'atomic heart'.

Summarised in Shelley McKellar's recent Physics Today article, the teams spent a decade trying to come up with a reliable artificial heart that wasn't reliant on short-lived batteries that had a tendency to overheat. 

The resulting heart converted heat from plutonium-238 - an element that releases 87 years' worth of stable heat - surrounded by insulation to protect the user's body. This power unit was then attached to a small blood pump that would take over from a failed heart. 

"Surgeons would squeeze the pump into a chest whose diseased biological heart had been removed and then connect it through the flexible drive shaft to the heat converter implanted in the abdomen," explains McKellar. However, there were issues with the design: "Both heat converter and blood pump were too big, heavy, inefficient, and unable to meet the body’s energy needs."

Another atomic heart prototype was successfully transferred into several calves in 1972. However, "exaggerated claims" concerning the atomic hearts, "only made the public more suspicious at a time when media reports, lawsuits, and vocal public outrage abounded concerning reported deaths and injuries from defective heart valves, pacemakers, and other medical devices."

The projects were closed in 1977 - mercifully, we never got to see what sort of damage an atomic heart might do to the poor sod who'd have one implanted inside their chest.

Best keep this tech to the comic books.

[Via: Physics Today, Techworm]



SpaceX hires ‘Iron Man’ designer to make its spacesuits


Robert Downey Jr to appear as Iron Man in the new Spider-Man flick


Robert Downey Jr: “I like Chris Evans more than he likes me”



NASA is going to send a spacecraft up to "touch the sun"

Hope it's wearing oven gloves

by Gary Ogden
30 May 2017

A man has used his fidget spinner to like EVERYBODY on Tinder

Where's the quality control, though?

by Gary Ogden
25 May 2017

This new emoji tool tells you which are still cool and which are lame

Less 💅, more 🍆

by Emily Reynolds
24 May 2017

You can now buy the revamped Nokia 3310 in the UK

The retro phone you know and love is back (kind of)

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Nintendo respond to touching thank you letter from a blind fan

"We want to keep making games that everyone can have fun playing"

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Secret rules on what Facebook allows you to post have been revealed

And it's a pretty confused state of affairs

by Dave Fawbert
22 May 2017

Stephen Hawking reckons we only have 100 years left on Earth

Anyway, happy Friday!

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Watch a young Mark Zuckerberg discover he's got into Harvard

His dad is a lot more excited than he is

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Nintendo have removed a gesture deemed to be offensive from Mario Kart

Up yours, Yoshi

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017

This is rumoured to be the iPhone 8's finished design

Bye bye bezels (maybe)

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017