Tony's big problem is to cure the ache in his heart. Palladium, we can surmise, drives a cold-fusion nuclear reactor that Tony has miniaturized into the arc reactor, but the radioactive palladium is killing him. The only solution is to make a hypothetical element from a structure suggested by his late father.Readers of this blog will remember that I speculated that the movie would feature Tony dealing with his immune system rejecting the arc reactor, just like in the comics. Apparently I was right.
Making a new element is not as fantastical as it might sound. New Scientist readers will know that the periodic table is a work in progress, with a new element - Copernicum, atomic number 112 - officially finding its place there last year. A string of other new elements are currently being considered.
Like real-life element forgers, Tony needs some hard-core tech. He assembles what appears to be a particle accelerator and fires a beam of high speed atoms (blue in this case), at a target: presumably two existing elements.
OK, it is not the LHC snaking around his spacious lab, nor is it a "table-top particle accelerator", in which laser beams accelerate electrons with a plasma. But whatever it is, it's impressive.
The result is almost immediate: a triangular-shaped sample of the element, which seems completely stable, and glows white. "Congratulations, you have created a new element," announces a robotic voice. "That was easy," says Tony.
This article implies that he develops a new element that is less poisonous than Palladium.
Fortunately for you, dear readers, I took chemistry. Unfortunately for viewers of Iron Man 2, Jon Favreau and Justin Theroux did not. The clear solution to the palladium poisoning issue would be to use titanium...which not only is lighter and stronger than palladium, but also has its hydrogen storage capabilities...AND IS COMPLETELY BIOCOMPATIBLE!
(Aside: Radioactive palladium fueling a cold fusion reactor? Please. Obviously he's used the palladium as a tritium storage bed and figured out a way to reach 900X concentration of tritium, and uses the "arc" to excite and increase radioactive decay of the tritium, yielding beta particles. Obviously.)