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Old January 29 2013, 05:00 PM   #48
Robert Comsol
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Location: USS Berlin
Re: Dilithium Crystals and Nuclear Fusion - A Star Trek Reunion Story?

Part IV

Many thanks for the feedback on impulse drive and batteries. I had to rethink the whole issue and may be on to an explanation / theory that’s compatible with the observations.

Now, since “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was the second pilot (add to this that dilithium crystals hadn’t been explicitly “created”, yet) some technical details may not have been settled, not to forget Sam Peeples’ possible nuclear fusion allusions (warp drive through nuclear fusion?).
  • In the story Kirk brings the ship to a halt to address the crew (“Neutralise warp”, much better than the ST II “stop engines” or “stop energizers”, whichever you dislike the most ).
  • They encounter the barrier at a speed of “warp factor one”.
  • The contact makes consoles blow up and deprives them of energy “Gravity control switching to batteries”. Spock reports “Main engines are out, sir. We're on emergency power cells.” (sounds like batteries, indeed).
“Captain's log, Star date 1312.9. Ship's condition, heading back on impulse power only. Main engines burned out. The ship's space warp ability gone. Earth bases which were only days away are now years in the distance.”
(clear evidence that impulse power has no “space warp ability”)

Spock reported engines beeing knocked out, Kirk states burned out suggesting beyond repair. Kelso: “The main engines are gone, unless we can find some way to re-energise them” Apparently Kirk was exaggerating. Solution: “adapt” some of Delta Vega’s power packs to their engines. Suggestion: this “adaptation” will enable re-energizing the engines

“Star date 1313.1. We're now approaching Delta Vega. Course set for a standard orbit. This planet, completely uninhabited, is slightly smaller than Earth. Desolate, but rich in crystal and minerals. Kelso's task, transport down with a repair party, try to regenerate the main engines, save the ship.”
(possibly the inspiration for the coming dilithium crystal concept)

Re-Energizing and Regenerating the main or warp engines is apparently one and the same. Note: repair party transports down to planet to try to regenerate the main engines of the ship in orbit above?!?
Definitely a suggestion that they transmitted energy from Delta Vega to the ship in orbit the same way they transmitted energy from the ship down to the phaser cannon on Talos IV in “The Cage”!

“Captain's log, Star date 1313.3. Note commendations on Lieutenant Kelso and the engineering staff. In orbit above us, the engines of the Enterprise are almost fully regenerated”
to the point of achieving “maximum warp” again.

Conclusions: batteries apparently consist of power cells, beaming transport possible with battery power, Delta Vega coincidentally happened to be in closest vicinity, recharging the warp engines (or dilithium crystals inside the engines?) was possible by transmitting energy from the planet to the ship.

In the third “Kirk Story” “Mudd’s Women” we do see dilithium crystals for the first time (raw appearance, not the standardized paddle, yet).
  • A dilithium crystal converter assembly (warp engine room?) apparently consists of three crystals (equally blown or burned out) with the location of the fourth one (spare?) remaining a debatable subject.
  • Workload of remaing fourth crystal is “supplemented with battery power”. After this last crystal is gone we hear that log entry: “Captain's log-- Stardate 1330.1. Position, fourteen hours out of Rigel 12. We're on auxiliary impulse engines. Fuel low, barely sufficient to achieve orbit over the planet. Lithium replacements are now imperative.“
Conclusions: At this point the ship most definitely relies entirely on battery power (aka auxiliary power?). “Auxiliary impulse” could suggest that “normal” impulse (and warp drive capability) capability was lost when the last crystal burned out.

Normal impulse drive is enhanced by matter-antimatter conversion energy (that was the concept for the TMP-Enterprise) or by fusion energy amplified and/or converted by the dilithium crystals.
Scotty’s remark “It (battery power) will get us to Rigel 12, sir, but it'll be a shaky orbit” clearly suggests that the auxiliary impulse engines rely on constant feed from the batteries. Theoretically and once ignited to several million degrees (!) the chain reactions in a nuclear fusion energy reactor would be self-sustaining (“re-energizing”?) and no longer require the need of battery power fed into the reactor system.

However, such an ignition of the onboard fusion reactors (“energizers”, “power plants”?) might draw most of the power from the batteries’ power cells.
In case the onboard fusion reactors don’t ignite the first time, they’d be marooned with no chance whatsoever for a second ignition (definitely possible with the crystals’ amplifying or converting effect as it requires lesser “jump-start” energy from the batteries).

Thus they only make use of the “auxiliary” capabilities of the impulse engine system, by which laser emitters in the exhaust nozzles focus on the fuel particles and create miniature H bomb explosions (i.e. laser fusion) that propel the ship forward.
This appears to be compatible with the popular theoretical spaceship propulsion proposals of the 1960’s and the terminology “impulse”.

In “The Alternative Factor” Kirk is understandably alarmed, to learn “Whatever that phenomenon was, it drained almost all of our crystals completely. It could mean trouble.”
He needs to keep the ship battle-ready (“full power”) and since we’ve seen in “The Doomsday Machine” (and in ST II) that the main energizers (fusion reactors?) can be knocked out during battle, restarting these with the unreliable prospect that battery power would do so the first time is a risk he’s not willing to take (considering the possibility that the “drained” crystals wouldn’t be up to the task sufficiently amplifying and/or converting battery power to ignite the fusion reactors, if necessary)!

In “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” the warp drive is knocked out, but there is no indication of energizer and/or dilithium crystal converter failure. Normal impulse power is available.

In “The Doomsday Machine” and despite heavy subspace interference, this is Spock’s first evaluation of the damage to the USS Constellation:
“All power plants dead, reserve energy banks operative at a very low power level.”

While reserve energy banks are possibly the same as the power cells of/or the batteries, the use of the term “power plant” should raise one or two eyebrows!
In several other episodes Spock correctly refers to the matter-antimatter annihilation chambers as “reactors” but never as “power plants”.
For an “energizer” “power plant” would establish that it creates energy, but later in this episode “energizers” are refered to by name - so why use two different descriptions if it’s meant to be one and the same thing in the same episode?!

It appears the Constellation was on battery power and by the time of the Enterprise’s arrival the fusion reactors may have cooled off so they could be re-ignited (no known damage to the dilithium crystals) to enable (normal) impulse power and the (slow) charging of one phaser bank.
Warp drive was unavailable because of physical battle damage to the engines, the antimatter had been rendered inert and useless (maybe Scotty was able to channel the neutralized antimatter into the impulse engines for fuel?).

What we see during this episode happening to the Enterprise may be exactly the same what happened to the Constellation one or several days earlier:
Power failure in the main energizers (obviously something else than the crystal converter assembly, otherwise Lt. Palmer would have said “power failure in the converter assembly”) because of mechanical damage and/or overheating, resulting in the loss of shield, phaser and warp power so that the Enterprise has to switch to battery power (“Emergency impulse power” appears to be the same as “auxiliary impulse power” in “Mudd’s Women”).

The negative side effect of battery / auxiliary / emergency impulse power is obviously that the laser fusion propulsion requires more fuel than under ideal and “normal” impulse conditions, something Spock seems compelled to remind Commodore Decker of: “We can maintain this speed for only seven hours before we exhaust our fuel, but it can refuel itself indefinitely.”

Status report to Kirk: “Warp drive out. Deflector shields down. Transporter under repair. We are on emergency impulse power.“

At least one solar day „to repair warp drive“, at the “present rate of consumption, we'll exhaust our impulse power (fuel) long before then.”

If there’s any doubt the Enterprise is still on battery power after the destruction of the planet killer, there’s Kirk’s order to save power (the last time he gave this order was in “Mudd’s Women” when the ship was on battery power): “Mister Sulu, ease us back to minimum headway. Conserve power as much as possible. Lieutenant Palmer, tell Mister Scott to expedite repairs on the warp drive.”

It would seem the energizers (fusion reactors?), too, are in the need of repair or just need time to cool off before battery power amplified/converted by dilithium crystals can restart the energizers to provide energy for “normal” impulse and – once Scotty is down with warp drive repairs – to the matter-antimatter reactors.

Then, there’s “Elaan of Troyius” where the Enterprise takes a deliberate long interplanetary flight with (normal) impulse power only.
There is no indication and no reason to do the trip with “battery” impulse power.
Either the impulse drive is just fed with fusion energy or there is a dilithium crystal amplifying / converting the fusion energy which is not affected by Kryton’s sabotage of the dilithium crystal converter assembly.
Phaser power should be available but apparently that would mean to give up the protection of deflector shields (of course, a decision that should have been made by the captain and not the chief engineer ).

Last but not least, in “The Paradise Syndrome” (the next episode produced) the Enterprise uses the maximum output of energy (provided with the help of the matter-antimatter reactors in the warp nacelles) in an attempt to deflect the asteroid threatening the native Americans.

The whole procedure is somewhat unorthodox (as most of that energy usually goes into the warp coils) and apparently overheats and damages the power conduits between the warp nacelles and their cycling points in the engineering hull.
The energizers / fusion reactors do not seem having been affected, with the dilithium crystals (Scotty wanted to exchange a “drained” one during the deflection operation) it’s not conclusive.

The Enterprise can still make full use of normal impulse power either because one or more of the crystals are still in working condition (since it usually takes a woman at least two months to figure out she’s pregnant, the unusual long-lasting impulse fuel in this episode was apparently an invention of the screenplay writer who wanted Kirk to become the widow of a wife and an unborn child. What a mean bastard! )

Could this qualify as “It’s a wrap” for the subject of the enigmatic “battery power”?

My stepson wanted us to watch "The Ultimate Computer" tonight and here are the "power plants" again:

DAYSTROM: Captain, I've finished my tests on the M-5, and it must be hooked into your main power plants in order to be operative.
KIRK: Well, by all means, do so.
DAYSTROM: Your engineer there wouldn't allow us the power necessary without your orders.
KIRK: Mister Scott, hook in the multitronic unit to the ship's main power banks.

(Ha...Shatner apparently didn't get his lines straight: "banks" instead of "plants" )

Apparently these are not the matter-antimatter reactors because these come in later:

SPOCK: M-5 appears drawing power directly from the warp engines, tapping the matter-antimatter reserves.
SCOTT: So now it has virtually unlimited power. Captain, what'll we do?

Obviously, feeding the M-5 mechanical beastie with energy from the m-am reactors was not what they intended to...therefore these "power plants" are obviously a secondary system (neither m-am reactors nor batteries), most likely fusion reactors, maybe also the "energizers".

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth" Jean-Luc Picard
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
Albert Einstein

Last edited by Robert Comsol; January 29 2013 at 09:57 PM.
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