Arc Reactor

An 'Iron Man' Prop Replica

A glowing power source beneath my undershirt

July 2008

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The apparatus, revealed

Did you see that "Iron Man" movie? Pretty good movie, actually. Action oriented, but with plenty of smart humor and a little slapstick. It walked a number of very fine lines, lines with "mean" on one side and "sucky" on the other, and managed to be neither mean nor sucky. With a anti-terrorism-based plot, that was tough.

Anyway, soon after the movie came out people started making knock-offs of Tony Stark's arc reactor, the power source that keeps him alive and energizes the Iron Man suit. Most of them involved a pile of soldering LEDs and some involved custom-molding plastic. Insanity! Plus, they didn't have the striated look that the reactor did in the movie.

I knew what material was needed, electroluminescent wire. Acually, I think that's what they used in the movie. Luckily for me, I had a couple of yards of EL wire with a power connector alredy soldered on. Most everything else was a piece of cake.


But wait, there's more

The main body of the reactor is a coil of EL wire that's held in place with loops of regular "bell" wire. The substrate is a circle of model-makers polystyrene sheet. The glow at the center of the reactor is a piece of EL material cut out of a night light. The transformer and all were already wired together.

Because I used RCA type connectors for the power, it will be easy to connect more extensions so the battery and transformer can be in a pocket somewhere.

For the coils of bell wire, I punched a series of holes around the plastic circle using a regular leather punch. The wire is just threaded through the holes and over the edge of the disk.

Wiring the central glow into the connector was a bit of a challenge, since the plastic substrate of the EL sheet is very thin. I melted a bunch of the plastic clean off with my soldering iron before I decided to just crimp the wires onto the terminals. I don't really like doing that since that connection will almost definitely come apart over time, but it works for now.

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