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Bam! Science Inspired by Superheroes

By Eric Roston - 2013-12-17T14:48:54Z

Photograph by Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

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Captain America's Shield 

In Marvel lore, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tasks Dr. Myron McClain with finding a better recipe for steel that will help improve U.S. tanks for fighting in Europe. He accidentally creates the mystery alloy that's later used for Captain America’s shield — the strongest material in the Marvel universe.

The trend toward lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles (as opposed to stronger shields) is driving a lot of research into super-metals. Suveen Mathaudhu’s own lab creates ultrahigh strength magnesium alloys, which otherwise are known for being light but not that strong. He thinks such an alloy could potentially substitute for steel in some car paneling. 

Advances in steel manufacturing hold promise for stronger car bodies that absorb energy better in crashes, and some of the so-called advanced high-strength steels are approaching commercialization.

Left, Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011