Black Panther’s Vibranium technology could actually be on the way to becoming real one day. Reaching new levels of popularity in the wake of the success of Ryan Coogler’s film, the rare, powerful Wakandan metal is the lifeblood of the technology found in T’Challa’s homeland, and also comprises part of Captain America’s new shield. It’s the main motivation for smugglers such as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), and the substance that elevates Black Panther’s suit from merely stylish attire into a formidable weapon.
Black Panther certainly wasn’t the last we’ll see of Vibranium in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’ll be back in the inevitable sequel, and we could see more of it in the officially untitled Avengers 4 after it popped up in Avengers: Infinity War. But despite the fact that the uncanny powers T’Challa draws from the metal are unlikely to give such a boost to people in real life, the technology behind Vibranium is already partially showing up in real substances – and could someday become a full reality.
As can be seen in a new video by Inverse, there are a couple of real-life materials that display the characteristics and abilities of Vibranium. It first compares the metal to Kevlar, which would make for good armor but wouldn’t have nearly enough flexibility to be an effective Black Panther suit. The clip moves on to the naturally-made Spider silk that the U.S. army is using to develop its own “Dragon Silk”, which is significantly more flexible than Kevlar but only about 67 percent as strong. Finally, the closest comparison that the video makes to Vibranium is with Graphene, a semi-metal that is stronger than both Kevlar and steel, yet thin enough that 97 percent of light passes through it.
The kicker that makes Graphene uncannily similar to Vibranium is its energy redistribution. The video demonstrates that what makes the material such tough armor is that the impact of bullets and other objects would not be isolated to the point of contact. It’s instead redistributed as “vibrations” throughout the Graphene, which is comprised of diamond-based carbon bonds. It’s a very similar quality to that of Black Panther’s suit, which spends much of the movie withstanding hails of gunfire.
Of course, the one major difference between Graphene and a Vibranium suit is the absorption of energy. As you saw T’Challa do so effectively in Black Panther, the energy of the bullets that impacted him got absorbed into the suit, which he could then redistribute in the form of his own attacks. He memorably used the power of the suit to completely crush a car during the chase sequence in South Korea. Nonetheless, Graphene represents an intriguing step toward potentially creating similar technology to that of Vibranium.
Still, it’ll take another leap forward for scientists and engineers to create what Shuri was able to create with T’Challa’s suit in Black Panther. Repelling bullets is one thing. Absorbing their energy for your own use is, well, the stuff of superheroes. But unlike most powers seen in the MCU, Vibranium at least seems like technology that could one day become part of real life.
KEY RELEASE DATES
Ant-Man & The Wasp release date: Jul 6, 2018
Captain Marvel release date: Mar 8, 2019
The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie release date: May 3, 2019
Untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming Sequel release date: Jul 5, 2019