Marvel’s Black Panther superhero T’Challa, the king of East African dynasty Wakanda, is not the only one ascending to the throne. Since its February 16 release, the film has collected over $1.2 billion at the box office worldwide, making it the 14th highest grossing movie ever. It is also the fourth highest grossing superhero movie, surpassed only by Iron Man 3 ($1.215b in 2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.4b in 2015) and The Avengers ($1.5b in 2012).
The movie’s success can be attributed to many factors — its superb cast, skillful direction, and of course the spectacular Vibranium-powered technology. While we do not have access to the rare, fictional metal, which was first introduced as a key component of Captain America’s shield, some of the technology it powers is not as far-fetched. Here are some of the Wakandan wonders that are, or will soon be, available to people worldwide.
Black Panther has no shortage of futuristic modes of transportation, but perhaps one of the most prominent is the Vibranium-powered levitating trains. Designed by King T’Challa’s tech-minded sister Shuri, they zip throughout the Golden City and its expansive mines. Though not (yet) comparable to the speed and efficiency of their Wakandan counterparts, magnetic levitation (maglev) trains are already a reality. The vehicles hover slightly above the ground thanks to magnetic attraction and are propelled forward by surges of electricity. With no friction from the wheels, they can accelerate to incredibly high speeds. The first operational one was built in Birmingham, England in 1984, and Japan is now home to Chuo Shinkansen, the world’s fastest train, which can attain speeds of up to 375 mph (603.5 kph).
Also in the works is Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop, which could allow people to travel T’Challa-style in underground vacuum tubes that move at speeds of up to 760 mph (1,223 kph). The technology is in very early stages, but SpaceX’s student prototype competitions will hopefully hasten the process.
Wakandan citizens don’t have to depend on phones to communicate. Using the hi-tech Kimoyo beads, they can instantly summon crisp, clear holograms of the person they wish to speak with. While the floating 3-D displays are far from becoming a reality, Microsoft is working on “Holoportation.” Users will be able to project a full-body likeness of themselves to a remote location, seeing, hearing, and interacting with others as if they are in the same room. However, the technology, which requires 3D cameras and virtual reality headsets to operate, is not as seamless as the one used by the Wakandans.
The residents of Wakanda not only use Harry Potter-like cloaking technology to hide their ships and themselves, but also their city. Though we may never be able to render an entire metropolis invisible, scientists have made some inroads in developing invisibility cloaks. In 2015, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley unveiled a fragile metamaterial that scatters incoming light to make it appear as though the light is coming from a flat surface, rather than a small 3-D object the material is covering. Though there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before they can create material big enough to hide a person, we sure can hope. Even more exciting is that this technology could potentially be applied in reverse to generate holograms.
Black Panther’s Vibranium-lined suit saves the kinetic energy expended by his enemies for future use. As a result, he sustains minimal injury while delivering impossibly powerful blows. While UK-based PavGen has managed to create tiles that harness the kinetic energy generated by people that walk over them and transform it into electricity, the technology has yet to be adopted in clothing. The closest company to bring the idea to life is sportswear manufacturer Blue Design Limited, which is trying to create material that can distribute stored kinetic energy to absorb shock to specific body parts, potentially reducing the impact of sport-related injuries.
Mined from a meteorite that landed in Wakanda, powerful Vibranium is the most resilient ore on the planet and charges all of Wakanda’s ingenious inventions. While some of the rare metal’s properties are impossible to replicate, graphene comes close as a suitable, real-world substitute. Made of a single sheet of carbon atoms, the two-dimensional material is a million times thinner than paper — making it invisible to the naked eye — while being 200 times stronger than steel. Impermeable to everything except water, the Nobel Prize-winning discovery could be used to desalinate ocean water or as a superconductor to run everything, from large power grids to personal electronics, more efficiently. Now, if scientists could only find a way to mass produce this difficult-to-make material, we could replicate the marvels of Wakanda!
Resources: businessinsider.com,mashable.com, gizmodo.com,designboom.com