Speaking of dilithium crystals
, the technology as depicted always annoyed me.
memory alpha wrote:
Dilithium, also known as radan, is an element, a member of the hypersonic series, mostly occurring as crystalline mineral. It was used to power the warp drive systems of many starships. Dilithium regulated the matter/antimatter reaction in a ship's warp core because of its ability to be rendered porous to light-element antimatter when exposed to high temperatures and electro-magnetic pressures. It controls the amount of power generated in the reaction chamber, channeling the energy released by mutual annihilation into a stream of electro-plasma.
So, it's described as a power source and yet also a regulator of matter/antimatter reaction in the ship's warp core. This seems ambiguous to me. As I see it, one thing serves as a power source and another regulates the power consumption/reaction; never both with one thing. But in TOS, the concept doesn't ever seem to be very clearly defined, or ends up being contradicted by later episodes.
I always felt it should be that the dilithium crystals amplify and control the matter/antimatter reaction and that some radioactive material is used as the fuel. In fact, several episodes have quotes referring to "fuel". For instance in "The Doomsday Machine", Spock says "We can maintain this speed for only seven hours before we exhaust our fuel, but it can refuel itself indefinitely." Fuel implies a consumable substance, so where crystals are concerned I'd expect him to say "before we exhaust our power
Anyway... I'll bet the crystals are too complex to replicate, which is why they couldn't be "manufactured" at will.