'Black Panther': A Quick Reminder That Vibranium Is Kind of Real

Vibranium has been a fixture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a while now, but in February 2018, Black Panther revealed just how important the fictional rare metal is to the nation of Wakanda.

“It’s not just a metal,” Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) explains in one scene. “They sew it into their clothes. It powers their city, their tech, their weapons.”

Perhaps most notably, Black Panther himself wears a Vibranium super suit that allows him to store any damage he takes as kinetic energy and then release it as a powerful attack. Granted, Vibranium as it exists in Black Panther is still total science-fiction. But Inverse explained in a nifty video back in April, which marked the Blu-ray release of the movie, there exist prototypes for “super suits” made up of different materials that not only withstand dangers like bullets, but also allow wearers to be limber, a feature prohibited by kevlar.

Currently, the U.S. Army is experimenting with spider silk, which means Black Panther’s colleague Spider-Man is onto something. Dubbed “Dragon Silk” and guarded by Kraig Biocraft Laboratories in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the material has ten times the flexibility of kevlar. Unfortunately, Dragon Silk is weaker than kevlar, leaving it more susceptible to things like firepower.

There’s also graphene, which is so thin that 97% of light passes through it. Thanks to the material’s pure carbon bonds forming a diamond-shaped pattern, it’s also one of the strongest materials out there. But no one has made any cool cat costumes out of it, let alone power up an entire underground network of high-speed trains or make a sweet frisbee.

So while the material itself may be fictional, the possibility of a Vibranium-like suit of armor isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments in science fiction this year. This has been #3.

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