The Star Trek Answer

The warp core is a matter and antimatter intermix chamber. It mixes the two to cause particle annihilation and thus liberate energy, which is utilized to power the warp drive and all other systems aboard the Starship Enterprise (and other Trek vessels).

The big question is this: If the warp core reacts matter and antimatter to get energy, where does it get the antimatter in the first place? In order to create antimatter using present technology, a very large particle accelerator such as those at CERN or Fermilab is used to create particle collisions with extremely high energies. During the annihilation of some of these matter particles, antimatter (in the form of antiprotons or positrons, perhaps both) is expelled and 'caught' using magnetic fields in vacuum.

The catch is that in order to make antimatter, you have to put enough energy into the system to account for 1/2 the amount of energy that will be liberated when your resultant antimatter reacts with matter. At least, I think this is true. Someone will, I'm sure, correct me (please!) if not. Thus, the net gain in energy that results from annihilating your antimatter comes from the released energy of the matter particles (according to e=mc^2). So, if the Enterprise warpcore is forced to expend this energy to create the antimatter in the first place, why not just use that to drive the system without all this dangerous mucking about with antimatter?

DANGER: Excessive treknology treknobabble ahead! Abort now if this will cause your head to explode!

Here's my hypothesis. Let's look at what 'facts' we do have regarding the warp core, and engage in vigorous handwaving while we assume they're all 'right' and 'consistent'.

  • The warpcore reacts matter and antimatter.
  • The warpcore operates by, and is designed to, 'warp' space, hence the name.
  • Antimatter is, in some sense, the 'mirror image' of matter.
  • The operation of the warp drive takes hellish amounts of energy.
  • Starting a 'cold' warp drive is an extremely energy-intensive (and time-intensive, for safety) process.
  • The U.S.S. Enterprise-D, at least, carries slush deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen useful for fusion) as 'fuel', and replenishes its supplies with Bussard collectors.

Okay. I posit that the warpcore is capable of 'bending' space in such a fashion that passing matter through the field results in the 'mirroring' of that matter; ergo, matter becomes antimatter. This flipping of matter, by the way, doesn't take nearly as much energy as 'making' antimatter. Due to the complexity of the process and the extremely dangerous nature of the resultant antimatter, this can only be done with small quantities at a time of very simple materials. Hydrogen is ideal.

So, the steps involved in making energy in the warpcore are as follows:

  1. The warpcore creates a localized entry into subspace, or a field which passes matter into and out of subspace. It does this using stored power.
  2. Slush deuterium is passed through this field in small quantities. It comes out the other side with a reversed charge, or as antihydrogen.
  3. This antihydrogen is intermixed with unmolested slush deuterium in a precisely monitored ratio (1:1).
  4. The hydrogen and antihydrogen annihilate each other, liberating energy. The amount of energy liberated is calculated by:

    e=2mc2

    ... where m=mass of each fuel, and c is the speed of light.

  5. This energy is used to power the warp drive (as opposed to the warp core) to drive the ship. Some of it is diverted back into the process to keep the conversion field powered; some more of it is diverted to the operation of the ship's systems.

This process thus means that creating and reacting antimatter can suddenly be a profitable enterprise. (Sorry, couldn't resist!) You end up with the above equation's worth of energy (the total content of both the antimatter, which you 'paid' for, and the annihilated matter).

Even if the 'conversion field' took as much power as the conventional process to make antimatter, it's definitely safer, and it allows a doubling of efficiency or more though the annihilation of plain matter.

Whew. Anyone care to object/argue/correct/comment?

The warp core is rather missnamed, it does not actualy warp space, all that it does is generate high energy plasma using a controled mater/antimatter reaction. Most of the generated plasma is sent to the warp nacels which generate the actual spatial warping. The deuturium is also used to power the fusion reactors of the impulse engines and auxilury power system. The Romulans have aparently found a way to get plasma from an artificial singularity(I would guess they siphon matter from the accretion disk or the jets perdendicular to the disk)

In the following data, I have used a Galaxy-class starship as a reference. Other starship classes have similar arrangements, but they differ in details.

Physically, the warp core (formally known as Matter/Antimatter Reaction Assembly, M/ARA for short) is a long vertical tube, spanning 12 decks in total. It uses two reactants: deuterium and antideuterium. A huge deuterium tank (total volume 63,200 m3) is located on decks 27-30, and 30 antideuterium tanks, each with a volume of 100 m3, are located on deck 42. On average, a starship requires refueling approx. every three years. Starfleet maintains a dedicated fleet of tanker ships solely for the purpose of refueling ships in deep space.

Both reactant tanks connect with the warp core through reactant injectors. These devices form a steady stream on (anti)matter, and inject it to the core. The reactants come into contact on deck 36 (Main engineering), in the Reaction Chamber. This is where the Dilithium Crystals are mounted. The Dilithum Crystals are exposed to high amounts of EM radiation, which renders it porous to matter and antimatter, allowing antimatter to pass though it without reacting with it. Inside the crystals, the actual annihilation takes place, and the resulting high energy plasma is tunneled to the power transfer conduits for use in the ship's various systems (Note: Pre-TNG treknology fandom agreed that the Dilithium Crystals converted the radiation generated in the matter/antimatter reaction into electricity).

So where do the reactants come from? Space is filled with rogue hydrogen particles. However, the big dish (the deflector dish) is actually used to, as its name implies, deflect the particles. The glowing tips of the warp nacelles (called Bussard ramscoops) are used for collecting them. This is a secondary method, however, and the collected hydrogen particles are used as a reserve. Usually the ship is refueled at a starbase or via a tanker.

As for the generation of antimatter, Starfleet uses solar energy to produce it in dedicated facilities around the Federation (in Mercury, for example). Galaxy-class staships do carry a device used to generate antimatter onboard, but this requires 10 units of deuterium for each unit of antimatter produced, so it is used only when antimatter supplies are exhausted and warp flight is a necessity.

THE STAR TREK ANSWER AS I SEE IT

Star Trek has no unified field theory but uses the theories we have up to the point at which they can prove them. They combine relativity and quantum theory and use other theories to bridge them like string theory and some others. A lot of the warp drive models that are studied today do the same thing.

Earth bound antimatter production takes a lot more energy than producing it on a warp drive ship. First CERN or Fermilab produce antimatter for study not for fuel. They produce it by accelerating particles to near the speed of light and slamming them into a tungsten shield and the anti particles are collected with a magnetic field. As particles accelerate, they build up mass energy at near the speed of light there is enough mass energy to produce mirror particles or anti particles from these particles if they come to a sudden stop. This process is sometimes called producing mirror matter. This process takes a lot of energy to produce a small amount of antimatter and lose 90% of it trying to store it. This antimatter is produced for study not fuel the process would not be the same.

Space bound antimatter production takes a lot less energy to produce antimatter because you do not have to produce a vacuum, space is a vacuum. High energy particles are part of space produced from the stars. A starship is moving faster than light you collect the particles and produce antimatter with the boussard scoop. It is better to use the boussard scoop to produce antimatter than to produce deuterium because there is so little of it to collect but the amount of mass energy is a lot larger and that is what antimatter is made from. The atoms in interstellar space are about one atom every centimeter one in four helium and three in four hydrogen and one dust particle in a 100 cubic centimeters this adds up to about one milligram of matter if a magnetic field goes out to about 10 to 12 cubic miles moving at the speed of light. The bussard scoop is mostly used for mass energy conversion into mirror matter or production of antimatter. Now this alone would not produce enough anti-matter, but the boussard scoop is also part of the warp matrix it helps to contract space this produces an effect that is like a gravitational well. The boussard scoops on Star Trek produce both magnetic fields and a polarization fields together this helps to produce a contraction of space time in turn this produces a gravitational effect. In a way it feeds on zero point energy. When you polarize vacuum space you produce positron electron pares according to quantum theory that normally change back by annihilating each other. But on star trek they have learned to separate them. There were a number of shows where the warp drive was disabled by depolarizing the boussard scoop. This is because it is part of the warp drive matrix at warp the boussard scoop produces a gravity well by contracting space time. This also allows it to be able to collect more mass/energy and particles. The faster the ship goes the more anti-matter is produced. When particles move at near light speed they gain enough mass energy to produce anti-matter when they come to a sudden stop. Also vacuum space contains a kind of un-quantized mass/energy field that consist of particles, atoms all kinds of energy and a small amount of dark matter. Now the boussard scoop along with the defector and force field channel and collect all this at the same time it is contracting space in fact this is part of how it helps to contract space. This way ant-matter and matter is both collected and produced in a number of different forms.

The warp coils need a high energy density to produce the warp field. This can be done with fusion but would take a lot more fuel and not go as fast. Gamma rays have a lot higher electromagnetic energy density than ionized particles from fusion, the higher the energy density on the warp coils the higher warp with lower amounts of energy.

Deuterium has to be carried because as the ship goes faster it becomes easier to produce more antimatter and the warp coils need one on one to produce the gamma ray burst to power the warp coils and deuterium is also used for fusion along with anti-protons as a supercharger. Also using too much warp plasma or anti-matter for low energy density functions are a waste of it. This would limit the amount used for the warp coils and this is one of the things where it is needed the most. Also without the fusion reactors the drain on the power systems would be too large and the production of warp plasma would be too low.

On the star trek story lines the first ships used Broussard ramjet fusion with liquid metal deuterium with a small amount of antimatter as a catalyze. They could only go a little faster than warp one. This was improved to warp 2. Antimatter Reactors where made using large particle accelerators like we have today to produce antimatter. Before the first Enterprise the earth and the Vulcans together produced small enough antimatter reactors with the boussard scoop to fit on a starship but it would not produce enough to get to high warp speeds without more antimatter carried on board. In kirks time they had learned how to use Particle fission reactors and particle mass flow from the Bussard scoop to produce enough antimatter on board ship. Part of the reason is because most of the star systems did not allow ships to enter their systems with large amounts of antimatter on board. Then within the next 100 years we had learned how to produce enough antimatter with the boussard scoop and fusion so the only fuel needed was liquid metal deuterium. The point is the power requirements are within a fusion generator output to get to light speed and antimatter a lot faster.

An antimatter reactor produces antimatter by colliding high energy mass particles together in a very tight particle stream and collects the antiparticles before they can turn back into normal matter. To do this very strong and focused magnetic fields are needed. The more was learned about these reactions the better the reactors become at producing antimatter.

A matter/antimatter reaction chamber on star trek produces warp plasma which is matter and antimatter together in a stable form that can produce a more focused energy streams, easier to control and store. Warp plasma is not a normal ionized gas it has both matter and anti-matter in a stable form that is possible by having the warp plasma in a different quantum state. This is kind of like a new type of chemistry that has begun in our time. The kind studied now is positronium which has an electron and a positron revolving around each other and de-positronium which is a molecule. The ladder has been found to stay stable longer if you have more of it in the quantum state. A warp core is storage for the warp plasma and is part of the matter/antimatter reaction chamber.

1. The Antimatter Reactor makes antimatter with the fusion reactors and the boussard scoop.

2. The matter/antimatter reactor produces warp plasma with the use of the Dilithium Crystals and stores it in the warp core. Most of the time only small amounts of antimatter is stored in a containment field.

3. The Dilithium Crystals produce a quantum state that allows the warp plasma to become stable.

4. The warp plasma is injected in the warp core chamber and ignited in pulses.

5. This produce very high density gamma ray burst which is very high electromagnetic energy bursts.

6. The coils in turn produce subspace energy or the warp fields.

I do not use the Star Trek source but combine what I read about and make my own conclusion. Does anyone agree or disagree or have a comment? It may make me thing a different way.

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