Vibranium is an extraterrestrial metallic ore known to exist on Earth in two forms. The largest known deposit comes from a meteorite that crashed on Earth approximately 10,000 years ago.
Vibranium, contrary to some reports, is not an element. Vibranium could not be an element as it is not radioactive, as all elements with high atomic weights are (all newly discovered elements must have higher atomic weights than the known elements).
Vibranium's electrons do not move, meaning that vibranium's molecules are constantly at a temperature of 0 degrees Kelvin (absolute zero). This lack of motion on the molecular scale means that vibranium is physically incapable of transferring force, making it the most durable substance in the Marvel Universe (note: adamantium is denser than vibranium and is thus more lethal, but vibranium is better for defensive purposes as it is can withstand nearly unlimited amounts of force).
Most of the aforementioned meteor, consisting of the more common variety of vibranium landed in Africa in the now modern-day nation of Wakanda. Even though deposits have been found in other locations; due to the fact that Wakanda is the first known source in existence is the reason why it continues to be known as Wakandan vibranium.
Wakandan Vibranium has the unique property to absorb vibratory waves such as sound as well kinetic energy by somehow storing this energy within it's molecular bonds. The more energy it absorbs, the stronger the molecular bonds become until the vibranium is extremely difficult to damage or destroy.
This makes vibranium highly prized for it's durability. Although not as hard or dense as adamantium, few other substances can equal it in durability. In addition vibranium is much more easier to shape and manipulate than adamantium and remains unsurpassed in it's ability to absorb impacts and to absorb noise and sound.
Although vibranium is extremely difficult to destroy; it is not impossible. There is an upper limit to the amount of energy vibranium can safely absorb, however this has yet to be determined. Doing so is incredibly dangerous as once the molecular bonds are shattered, it causes all of the energy stored within those molecular bonds to be released at once which tends to result in an incredibly large and powerful explosion.
Wakandan vibranium also has the power to greatly amplify mystical energies. It is highly unstable when used this way, as it taps into an energy flow on the Quantum Level that is virtually infinite.
Wakandan vibranium is also a powerful mutagen. Exposure to vibranium has led to the mutation of several Wakandan natives such as Vibraxas and Vibrania. It is theorized that it has also altered Wakandan flora and fauna such as the Heart-Shaped Herb that is eaten by the Black Panther to bestow upon their physical enhancements and the White Gorillas of Wakanda whose flesh and blood gives the White Gorilla Cult their enhanced strength and powers.
The second form of vibranium exists in Antarctica, within the Savage Land and is known as Antarctic Vibranium. Unlike the Wakandan version, this type does not absorb vibratory waves but instead generates a unique vibration field that breaks down other metals that is in close proximity to. A single piece of Antarctic vibranium can reduce any metal into a liquid or near liquid-like state. Because of this unique property, it has been more commonly referred to as "Anti-Metal".
It has been theorized this version of vibranium was exposed to particle bombardment which severely altered it's molecular structure. Theoretically, the Wakandan vibranium could also be converted to the Antarctic vibranium type.
If the Vibranium Mound in Wakanda were it composed of Anti-Metal instead; it would produce vibrations that would liquefy all metals throughout the entire continent. If Anti-Metal was compiled in a large enough mass, the vibrations would be increased logarithmically as more is amassed.
It is unknown if the process can be reversed and Antarctic Vibranium can converted back into Wakandan Vibranium.
Approximately 10,000 years ago, a large meteorite composed of vibranium crashed in Africa in the now modern-day nation of Wakanda. The natives would call this the Sacred Mound and studied the mined metal for centuries.
But the existence of vibranium has only recently been made public in the 1980's, although rumors have been around for many years. Dr. Myron MacLain, a young scientist came into contact with a small amount of vibranium in the early 1940's.
MacLain's early experiments with the material were initially unsuccessful. He would make a vibranium-iron alloy mix which had an unidentified catalyst that resulted in an incredibly durable and near-invulnerable metal alloy. This resulting vibranium-iron alloy would be poured into a tank hatch cover mold and the resulting concave disc would be made into the famous shield of Captain America.
MacLain's repeated attempts to recreate this substance lead to the creation of another incredibly durable alloy known as adamantium, which is not as immutable as Captain America's shield.
A different type of vibranium was subsequently discovered in the Savage Land of Antarctica many years ago by Lord Robert Plunder, the father of Kevin (Ka-Zar the Savage) and Parnival Plunder. This isotope had wildly different properties and although officially known as "Antarctic Vibranium", it's power to liquefy metal has resulted in most referring to this unusual isotope as "Anti-Metal".
However his discovery was leaked to unscrupulous agents of a foreign power who sought to torture the information out of Lord Plunder. Although rescued from this attempt, Lord Plunder was afraid that others would continue to acquire the "Anti-Metal" and decided to separate his two sons for their safety. He sent Parnival away under an assumed name while he and Kevin fled back to the Savage Land.
Shortly afterwards though, Lord Plunder was tragically killed by Maa-Gor and his savage tribe of Man-Apes and left Kevin to grow up in the wilds of the Savage Land as Ka-Zar the Savage.
A renegade scientist by the name of Ulysses Klaw, who believed rumors of the existence of vibranium, later found the "Sacred Mound" hidden within Wakanda. The Mound had been guarded for generations by the Wakandan Kings and Klaw attempted to steal some vibranium to power one of his devices, killing King T'Chaka in the process. T'Challa, T'Chaka's son, would take over as both king of Wakanda and assume the mantle of the Black Panther.
The existence of vibranium was soon made public knowledge. By selling small amounts of it, T'Challa was able to use the profits to better stabilize the nation and made Wakanda into one of the richest countries in the world.
Parnival Plunder who had become a criminal known as "The Plunderer" would discover that part of his inheritance included half of a key to his late father's secret cache of "Antarctic Vibranium" and sought to acquire the other half which lay in the hands of his brother, Kevin who he had long thought was deceased along with his father.
Instead he discovered that Kevin was alive and was now called Ka-Zar the Savage and the Protector of the Savage Land. Acquiring Ka-Zar's half of the key by force, Parnival sought to use the "Anti-Metal" as a weapon to conquer the world but failed thanks to the efforts of Ka-Zar and Daredevil.
Several years ago, Roxxon Oil was dumping their industrial waste illegally in the South Atlantic when they discovered that a small island had a vibranium foundation composition. Roxxon attempted to secretly exploit the situation by getting rid of the island's sole inhabitant, an old man known Hiram Dobbs. Their attempt however is foiled by the surprising presence of Namor the Sub-Mariner who was recuperating from exposure to toxins and was rescued by Dobbs.
When Roxxon's secret presence is completely blown by the arrival of Iron Man as well, Roxxon proceeded to hide their illegal activities by blowing the island up with explosives. The vibranium was not able to fully absorb the explosive force, but did absorb the sound waves the explosion made.
When the Life Foundation rebuilt the infamous Tri-Sentinel, they installed a special failsafe of a chunk of Antarctica Vibranium that they had acquired through unknown means in order to prevent it from going rogue. It failed and it was only through the intervention of Spider-Man who managed to infiltrate the Tri-Sentinel to trigger the Anti-Metal that ended the threat.
When the genocidal robot Ultron massacred the entire European nation of Slorenia, Justice brought several containment vessels of Antarctic vibranium to use as a weapon against the insane artificial intelligence. The anti-metal ultimately broke down the molecular bonds of Ultron's adamantium body and allowed the Avengers to the threat.
In the aftermath of the Secret Wars where Captain America's shield was shattered and later repaired, a small sub-molecular imperfection was introduced. It grew until the molecular bonds of the shield were completely broken down years later and shattering the shield. This shattering effect created a "vibranium cancer" which propagating throughout the world as a shockwave that violently detonated any vibranium it encountered, from mineral deposits to components of ships or equipment.
When this travelling shockwave strikes the "Sacred Mound" in Wakanda, the resulting explosion could destroy the world. In a desperate attempt to stave off this apocalypse, Captain America rushed to Wakanda with the remnants of his shield in an attempt to stop the cancer. However, he found himself under attack by Klaw who was growing stronger and stronger with the destruction of each bit of vibranium and sought to achieve absolute power with the destruction of the "Sacred Mound" itself.
Unwittingly, Klaw inadvertently aided in the resolution of the crisis by neutralizing the cancer and also restoring Captain America's shield.
During the Secret Invasion by the Skrulls, they assumed the identity of S.H.I.E.L.D agents and were secretly mining Antarctic Vbranium in the Savage Land by enslaving the natives until they were discovered by the New Avengers. Later still, the Skrulls attempted an invasion of Wakanda to acquire their deposits of vibranium and were repulsed by the Black Panther.
Most recently, Doctor Doom discovered Wakanda's most closely guarded secret of how vibranium can amplify mystical energies. He attempted to assassinate T'Challa and was able to destabilize Wakanda's government to the point where his allies, the Desturi dissent group is able to seize political power over Wakanda.
Doom was able to acquire over 10,000 tons of vibranium stored within Wakanda and uses it to construct an army comprised of mystically enhanced vibranium robots. To save the world, T'challa was forced to use a secret failsafe to render all the processed Wakandan vibranium inert. Although this resulted in the end of the so-called Doomwar, it also forced Wakanda to rebuild without the resource they used as a crutch of power and influence for 10,000 years.
Wakanda still possesses the unmined vibranium from the meteor but it is unknown what Wakanda will choose to do with the little vibranium ore they have left after the Doomwar.
The catastrophic loss of vibranium throughout the world has forced scientists to explore the development of alternative materials. Sajani Jaffrey of Horizon Labs' Lucky Seven has created an artificial variant known as reverbium which has the opposite effect where it amplifies sound rather than absorbing it. As of yet, it remains to be seen if an artificial version of vibranium can be created.
Example of uses
- Captain America's shield is partially composed of vibranium.
- Agent Zero can move silently due to his vibranium armor.
- Warpath was given a pair of vibranium knives by Storm.
- Gentle has powers that are helped controlled by his vibranium tattoos.
- Black Panther is able to absorb many attacks due to the vibranium sewn into his uniform.
Nuform was an artificial version of Vibranium created by Roxxon. It was made of both mineral and organic compounds. However, it was unstable and degraded into Antarctic Vibranium unless it was temporarily stabilized by microwave treatments. Roxxon knew about its problems and still tried to sell it on a mass scale. However, Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Sunturion managed to stop its production during the Vibranium Vendetta storyline.
Vibranium in Other Media
Captain America: The First Avenger
When Steve Rogers takes a liking to a circular shield created by Howard Stark, he mentions that it is special as it is cast out vibranium which is stronger than steel yet weighs about a third less. It is completely vibration absorbent and represents the total sum of vibranium Stark has in the world.