Pym Particles are subatomic particles of an extra dimensional nature that are capable of shunting or adding mass and reducing or increasing scale of any form of matter, compressing physical forces around such objects or organisms that they are applied to, as well as increasing density and strength of the subject.
Human users of technologies that harness the particles are able to shrink themselves to the size of an insect, while still possessing the physical resilience, as well as effort and force exertion capabilities of an average-sized human, which can be amplified in their reduced scale.
The process of altering size compresses force and energy, manifesting as brief shockwaves of vibration around the target, which enhances the amount of force the target can generate. It also enhances the density and resilience of a target, making them stronger and harder than normal. Living subjects of this develop inhuman effort and exertion capabilities, notably giving them the force of a bullet while shrunk.
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During the 1960s, Doctor Hank Pym discovered and isolated a rare group of subatomic, extra dimensional particles, which became known as "Pym Particles", that could increase or decrease the size and mass of objects or living beings by shunting or adding it from a subatomic dimension. He formulated the particles inside a special suit designed to harness them and that allowed him to shrink down to the size of an insect.
He and his wife Janet van Dyne used these abilities to become the superheroes "Ant-Man" and "Wasp". However, a tragic incident occurred during a mission to defuse a missile attack. Janet used the Pym Particles to shrink to a subatomic level, which resulted in the disappearance of van Dyne into the Quantum Realm. This caused Pym to abandon the particles and his heroics, swearing to never let anyone get a Pym Particle as long as he's alive. In the meantime, Hank created his own corporation, Pym Technologies. He was ousted out of his company by his estranged protégé, Darren Cross, and became concerned that Cross was intending to recreate his Pym Particles and utilize its shrinking ability to market his weaponized Yellowjacket Suit. By 2015, Hank Pym was forced to recruit a new Ant-Man and teach him how to use Pym Particles so that they could complete their mission to stop Cross from selling his own version of the Pym Particles, dubbed "Cross Particles", to nefarious organizations.
Pym Particles have the capability to alter the scale, mass, strength and density of organic and inorganic subjects, most notably to reduce them to the size of an insect while retaining their normal strength density, enhancing it as the subject shrinks. In reduced scale, a subject is enhanced by enhanced density and strength, as well as compressed energy and physical force of the subject, which results in an organic subject to possess unnaturally high levels of physical effort and exertion capability and also astonishing strength and durability. This is done by adding or shunting mass from a subatomic dimension from which the particles gain their abilities.
The process of altering size and changing mass levels results in extreme physical forces being created and dramatically increases the momentum of an organic subject. Such force can be exerted immediately after changing size. This further increases the physical effort capabilities, as well as the strength and durability, of organic subjects which they can use to perform feats of inhuman physical exertion and strength with similarly inhuman ease; especially right after a human subject uses it while returning to normal size. One example is if a human user is falling from great height in their small scale, they can utilize the kinetic energy and momentum obtained from falling and exert this force immediately after or while returning to normal size. This will translate as a feat of inhuman strength while in normal size.
The Particle's ability to warp mass and size can transport said mass, and also objects and living beings, into what is known as the Quantum Realm- a subatomic dimension of space that holds any mass of those who have shrunken with the use of the Particles. The mass, while still part of the shrunken subject, is shunted inside the Quantum Realm until returned. As the blue Pym Particles Disks have demonstrated, mass can be added onto a subject of the Particles and allow the subject to increase their size rather than shrink it.
There are two types of Pym Particle serums: blue and red. They are used to power the Ant-Man Suit but the red serum also powers the Yellowjacket Suit and the Wasp Suit. They are also used to weaponize Pym Particles Disks. As the effect shown when the disks hit its targets:
- Red Pym Particles shrinks and gives increased strength.
- Blue Pym Particles enlarges thus growing mass and gives increased strength and weight as depicted by the enlarged Thomas the Tank Engine toy and the ant that Cassie Lang kept as a pet.
However there can be negative side effects with the use of Pym particles. Being exposed to and using Pym Particles over a protracted period of time can cause extreme levels of mental instability, as it alters the chemistry of the brain. Hank specifically designed the Ant-Man Suit's helmet to protect the user from this suffering brain damage while using the particles.
The Pym Particles seem to have an adverse effect onset after continuous use on humans. Without proper protection such as the Ant-Man Suit, humans turn into a protein goo outright. Even with the protection of the suit, Hank Pym stated that continuous use of the suit had taken its toll and thus further using the suit and shrinking could cause some hazardous health problem to him.
Also, forcing to shrink after a certain threshold, such as deactivating the regulator on the suit that limits the user from shrinking beyond the size of an insect, will cause the user to continuously shrink until they reach a point where they become subatomic and reach the Quantum Realm. At that point, time does not hold any sway and concepts of space are irrelevant. Once there, they will be frozen in time, unable to age, but also be in a state of unconsciousness or half consciousness, barely aware of their surroundings. They can try to fight this, but they will eventually succumb to it and be unable to act. Scott Lang found the will to fight the effects of the Realm, as sound could still travel through it and he was able to hear calls of his daughter a few feet away from the point of where he went subatomic. His daughter's calls motivated him to find a way to restart his regulator by inserting an enlarger formula disc into it and switching it back on, thus allowing the enlarging controls on his suit to work again. This allowed him to return to his normal size, but he could not remember what happened while he was inside the Realm. Pym theorized that the human mind could not comprehend the experience.
Using the Particles to become giant also seems to cause a large amount of physical strain to the user. The Ant-Man suit's "Giant Man" function seems to require manual activation and Scott Lang was visibly exhausted and strained after using it for only a few minutes. He also mentioned that the first time he activated the function he was "nearly split in half".
Pym's former protege Darren Cross worked for years to try to recreate shrinking technology on his own, but grew upset as he slowly realized that Pym always possessed the technology but had hidden it from him. Cross's research eventually developed to the point that he could shrink inanimate objects, but trying to shrink living organisms reduced them to miniature piles of goo. After a great deal of trial and error, however, Cross was able to develop Cross Particles for use in the Yellowjacket Suit, which were stable enough that they would not kill a human being in the shrinking process.
While the perfected Pym Particles used by Hank Pym were red when in a suspended solution, Cross's Cross Particles were yellow. While they came close to matching the functions of Hank Pym's version of the technology, they lacked certain refinements that Pym had made to counteract health damage caused by prolonged exposure, i.e. altering the brain chemistry and leading to mental instability.
Exposure to the Cross particles made Cross increasingly unhinged, and he eventually revealed that he intended to sell the technology to HYDRA. While Cross was stopped by Ant-Man, and his laboratory destroyed along with all computer files, S.H.I.E.L.D. turncoat and HYDRA representative Mitchell Carson was able to flee with a sample of the Cross Particles.