I still can't get away from the idea that the dilithium crystals don't directly produce any energy themselves and are mainly a sort of highly important "catalyst" component that allows the engines to operate at all. All the references to the crystals being "charged" or "regenerated" either refer to the crystals' main function of producing antimatter (maybe a voltage drop required across the crystal?) or to the antimatter the crystals actually produce.
Yeah, I agree.
It is common to "recondition" various devices, and I get the impression that what we see with the dilithium crystals is not "storing energy into them" as much as it's something akin to annealing.
Example (and one which is close to home for me, as I've worked in this field for several years now)... lithium batteries degrade over time, but they can "degrade" excessively fast, by becoming "imbalanced" and you can recondition them to be "mostly like new" again, but not in the field. You have to put them in a specific setup designed to recondition them... involving specific temperatures, and specific charge/discharge cycles, among other things.
On the other hand, there are negative materials changes which occur to many engineering materials through use. One common one is what we call "work-hardening" which can be good, or bad, depending on the situation. You've seen this when you take a piece of flexible metal and just bend it back and forth, repeatedly. It starts out flexible but becomes brittle soon. This is caused by distortion of the metallic grain structure.
To eliminate work-hardening, you put the metal bit through a process called "annealing," which involves heating it up (well below melting temperature) to allow the internal grain structure of the material to recrystalize. New grains form along the high-energy (due to mechanical stress) grain boundaries. Eventually, the old ("high-energy") crystaline grains dissolve and recrystalize completely.
I see the process to which dilithium crystals are treated to be, from a materials/chemistry basis, very much akin to annealing... a necessary periodic process required to prevent the crystals from failing. Once "re-energized" they'd be able to process and produce useable energy again, but they'd eventually be overworked and would fracture, rendering them useless.
But this process is FUNCTIONALLY quite a bit more like what we do with lithium-ion battery systems... rather than just sitting in an oven like is done for annealing.