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What is the in-universe reason Tony Stark leaves his Arc Reactor exposed to danger? It looks as vunerable as a small thermal exhaust port planted there in the middle on the outside of his super suit.

Why is Ironman's arc reactor exposed and vunerable to damage or destruction?

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    Because the engineer who designed it had a grudge against him? – Adamant Dec 31 '16 at 6:46
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    We're talking about a flamboyant guy that had his suit painted a lurid combination of gold & fire engine red. So 'because it looks wicked cool' does not seem out of the question. – Andrew Thompson Dec 31 '16 at 7:57
  • Fool him once, shame on the bad guy. Fool him twice and shame on Tony Stark. – Major Stackings Dec 31 '16 at 8:30
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    @UmßraDivisio - I find that calling people "schmucks" helps to break up the monotony of pointing out that Dumbledore has zero problem with child abuse and that Vader is actually quite a good boss. – Valorum Dec 31 '16 at 13:27
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    @Adamant - Ah, he only kills other bosses. Incompetent ones. The kind that get you killed. – Valorum Dec 31 '16 at 20:13
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The reactor in the middle of the chestplate was actually not a reactor at all in the comics (at least at first), it (and the entire chestplate) was a powerful electro-magnet, then it became another repulsor like in his gauntlets. It is left exposed (not behind a window) so he can use it as a weapon against his enemies. He called it the Unibeam. But even that is not actually his arc reactor showing through the chestplate, since the reactor in his chest is almost flush with his skin, what you see in the chest plate is a repulsor and is hard to destroy. It took super soldiers armed with vibranium or Vision's beam cannon from his head gem to disable it.

However as a reference to the US War Machine comic, Rhodes lead a team in knockoff War Machine armor when he realizes that the knockoff armor's designer had placed the unshielded power cell in the middle of the chestplate, because it 'looked cool'.

There is also the theory that Tony's arc reactor is actually based off the Tesseract, and possibly built with some of the Tesseract's elements. I imagine if that was true then it would make it quite durable as well. Possible proof for that is in a comparison of photos. The first photo being from Captain America: The First Avenger when Howard Stark is examining an element found in a Hydra base, and the other photo being from Iron Man 2 after Tony recreated his fathers 'lost element'.

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The Arc Reactor is, in fact, sitting behind another weapon so it's not entirely unprotected.

The Unibeam (wikia)

The Unibeam is a particle weapon on Iron Man's chest and a more powerful version of the hand repulsors. It is directly linked to the Arc Reactor and has been modified to fire highly concentrated repulsor blasts. Stark was given the idea for this when he was testing out his hand stabilisers and destroyed a portion of his desk. It is Iron-Man's suit's most powerful energy based weapon and also uses the most energy

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