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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old August 20 2014, 08:21 PM   #16
zDarby
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

--Ithekro
Hrm... Ok. A ring is a bigger target but it would seem a nacelle would be easier to damage to the point of failure. Destroy the port strut, for example, and your half your warp coils are gone. But you could plumb a ring so that any part of the ring that still physically connected to the ship gets power. So I think the vulnerability point is arguable.

A ring is probably way more expensive to build, yes. On the other hand, if it's more efficient, it will be less expensive to run. The question is, where is the right balance? The Vulcans seem to have abandoned the annular ring and gone for a more box-like ring, as seen in TNG Reunion #2. And if Daniel's future database is to be believed (from Enterprise) the Vulcans decide in the late 22nd century that three rings are better than one, at least for that one ship. This seems to imply some major advantage to the ring that's worth the expense.

Your Space Battleship Yomato observations are cool. I want to encourage you to write more because I'd like to read more. I like where you're going with your retcon. I think you might be on to some interesting insights. Especially since some early NASA FTL pics include a ship similar to what you describe: an american football in the center of a ring. However, I humbly request that you publish further observations on Battleship Yamato elsewhere as it's tremendously off topic. But please do post a link here so that I (and others) can find it and read it. It's cool!


--Ronald Held
Yes! Please check my calculations! That would be great! Thank you!

I wrote down my assumptions so that they would be challenged and a debate might break out. I'd especially appreciate you finding any assumptions I took for granted. (...Well, you know, other than "Star Trek has some basis in reality." I know it it doesn't, other than how it changes opinions in the real world. But without that assumption, what's there to talk about?)

There are three basic reasons I went to fission instead of fusion. The first I stated already: The few fusion proposals I have any understanding of wont work. This includes:

Polywell: Even with superconductor materials that superconduct at +500 Celsius and below (one can hope!) and using the inner hull as the outer casing, I don't see how it would be possible to shrink the mag-grid small enough that sparking wouldn't occur between the outer casing and the mag-grid. (The outer casing must be positively charged and the mag-grid, negatively charged, with tens to hundreds of kilovolts of potential between them. The amount of gas needed to be in the chamber for 14 GW would insure a discharge that would release containment and probably destroy the machine...As you can tell, I've thought about this one a lot.)

Focus Fusion: These don't like to scale to power outputs larger than one megawatt. Out of the question.

Magnetic Confinement, Inertial Ignition (General Fusion): This reactor doesn't like to scale to anything smaller than the size of a barn.

Magnetic Confinement, Magnetic Ignition (Helion): This one is a possibility. Right now, a reactor that would fit in Phoenix would only produce power in the tens of megawatts. But if the magnetic fields were stronger, the pulse frequency higher and the power per pulse increased, it might have a shot. But those are quite a few, very difficult 'ifs'. I'm not even sure it's physically possible. But still: maybe.

Magnetic Confinement, Thermal Ignition (TOKAMAK, Spheromak, Stellerator, etc, etc): Again, these don't like to scale to anything smaller than a barn. I mean, the required heat sinks alone would be orders of magnitude larger than Phoenix.

Inertial Confinement with particle accelerators: Getting one of these to the size of a barn would make the Manhattan Project look like napkin doodles. Let alone making it fit into Pheonix. (...Of course, all that really means is that the field of particle accelerators is ready for some genius to revolutionize it with a new paradigm.)

Inertial Confinement with lasers (NIF): Laser power density is increasing exponentially. I don't know by how much. But the NIF building is three (american) football fields in area and 10 stories in height. That's approximately 160,000 kL. (One kilo-liter is the same as one cubic meter, and kL easier to read than "m^3".) According to admittedly imperfect computer models I have, the volume of the main hull of Phoenix (which excludes cockpit, nacelles and rocket cones) was no larger than 200 kL. That's means at least ten doublings of laser power density (watts per liter) in the next 50 years. Probably a great deal more: Post ww3 seems post apocalyptic, plus NIF can't seem to produce any excess power and I'm asking for gigawatts. Still, is it possible? Perhaps. I just don't buy it.

In all these cases, I'm not concerning myself with radiation shielding at all, just the equipment needed to make the fusion happen.


Of course, none of this excludes the possibility of a new kind of fusion device that would work handily. Which brings me to my second point: Fusion is hard. I am not able to mathematically model fusion reactions at all well. So I have a hard time thinking up new ways of making a fusion reactor. This is, of course, entirely my own lack. Still, that's one more reason I looked at fission.

Mind you, I have, in fact, proposed more than one method to build a fusion powered Phoenix. I think I even posted a couple here, somewhere on Trek BBS's Tech Trek forum. However, other posters have noted that the First Contact novelization seems to imply Phoenix used plutonium. Where as the movie seems to imply it used antimatter. The above is a proposal to make both implications true. What's more, I think it could be done.

As to Phoenix needing less than the Ent-D's 14GW, I agree. I just don't know how much less. Again, the Ent-D power usage is the only thing I have to go on. So that's what I used.

I'd be very happy to entertain any proposal for a rule of thumb power usage scaling factor. I have my own thoughts, of course. But this post is already too long.

Suggestions?
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Old August 21 2014, 07:22 PM   #17
Ronald Held
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Maybe ask Rick Sternbach as he is occasionally on these boards?
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Old August 22 2014, 02:35 AM   #18
SicOne
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

WarpFactorZ wrote: View Post
Wingsley wrote: View Post
We're just not ready yet to explore the Cosmos if we can't treat eat other in a civilized fashion.
Well, when the Zombie apocalypse rolls around, we definitely won't eat each other in a civilized fashion.
Remember your headshots, as well as an insurance shot. Just to be sure.
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Old August 22 2014, 07:57 PM   #19
Rick Sternbach
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Ronald Held wrote: View Post
Maybe ask Rick Sternbach as he is occasionally on these boards?
Thanks for thinking of me, but I have almost no clue as to how the movie Phoenix was supposed to work. I say almost, because I didn't have any involvement in the design or commentary on the tech/script. Nada. I can make an informed guess, however, based on the technology level in the time of Cochrane and company, and that would be to react deuterium and antideuterium within the nacelles, to make the hot, hot plasma that juices the nacelle coils that makes the warp field that moves the ship that lives in the house that Jack built. I can accept that back in the day, they hadn't built a dedicated reactor. I can also accept that this method worked up through the TOS Enterprise, since we never saw a dedicated core until TMP. Cochrane and his gang could have managed the mag containment for a small amount of antimatter, not enough to actually go anywhere like alpha Centauri, but to at least do that proof-of-concept flight. I would say that an actual expedition to a Cent would have involved a Phoenix II.

Rick
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Old August 22 2014, 08:08 PM   #20
T'Girl
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Rick Sternbach wrote: View Post
since we never saw a dedicated core until TMP
Then what was that big "boiler-looking" thing in the middle of the NX-01's engine room? I took that to be a M/AM reactor (i.e. a warp core).



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Old August 23 2014, 07:58 AM   #21
Albertese
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Rick Sternbach wrote: View Post
since we never saw a dedicated core until TMP
Then what was that big "boiler-looking" thing in the middle of the NX-01's engine room? I took that to be a M/AM reactor (i.e. a warp core).



It was an "anachronism."

--Alex
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Old August 23 2014, 08:03 PM   #22
Ronald Held
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Rick Sternbach wrote: View Post
Ronald Held wrote: View Post
Maybe ask Rick Sternbach as he is occasionally on these boards?
Thanks for thinking of me, but I have almost no clue as to how the movie Phoenix was supposed to work. I say almost, because I didn't have any involvement in the design or commentary on the tech/script. Nada. I can make an informed guess, however, based on the technology level in the time of Cochrane and company, and that would be to react deuterium and antideuterium within the nacelles, to make the hot, hot plasma that juices the nacelle coils that makes the warp field that moves the ship that lives in the house that Jack built. I can accept that back in the day, they hadn't built a dedicated reactor. I can also accept that this method worked up through the TOS Enterprise, since we never saw a dedicated core until TMP. Cochrane and his gang could have managed the mag containment for a small amount of antimatter, not enough to actually go anywhere like alpha Centauri, but to at least do that proof-of-concept flight. I would say that an actual expedition to a Cent would have involved a Phoenix II.

Rick
Always nice to hear your thoughts on this forum, Rick. I can accept that Cochrane's group had access to some antimatter although it would be easier to use a fusion reactor for a proof of concept vehicle. Especially for a flight after WW III.
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Old August 24 2014, 03:56 AM   #23
Rick Sternbach
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Albertese wrote: View Post
T'Girl wrote: View Post
Rick Sternbach wrote: View Post
since we never saw a dedicated core until TMP
Then what was that big "boiler-looking" thing in the middle of the NX-01's engine room? I took that to be a M/AM reactor (i.e. a warp core).



It was an "anachronism."

--Alex
Well, I could buy the NX-01's big glowy thing as a warp core, sure. Nothing says they couldn't centralize the reactions on that class of ship. It makes sense from a drama standpoint to have an engine room where you actually see the engine (unlike TOS), especially after seeing cores on TNG and Voyager and DS9 (Defiant). Remember, we didn't get to see the Romulan War, so perhaps Starfleet went back to a simpler configuration. I know, it's wacky, but it's all I got.

Rick
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Old August 24 2014, 04:56 AM   #24
Albertese
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

I was being snarky with the anachronism poke.

My actual take on it is that engine development out-paced reactor development. So, by TOS, the warp drive required more energy than one central reactor could reliably create and so each nacelle contained it's own dedicated generator equipment, and the central reactor was use to power the rest of the ship and somehow keep the other two primed or correctly timed or whatever. This is due to repeated (and exhaustively argued) references to power being generated in the nacelles, but also seeing that sabotage at the reactor near the engine room (the central one in my set-up) can be a single point of failure that jeopardizes the whole system.

Then in time, the reactor technology caught up with the warp engine demands and the single central reactor model was readopted in time for TMP and remained in vogue for at least the next century.

See? It's not too hard to fit this stuff together.

--Alex
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Old August 24 2014, 09:14 PM   #25
zDarby
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

I have used as an assumption in some of my fanfics (all unpublished) that early human warp ships used antimatter reactions within the nacelles. It solves several tough engineering problems and creates a few others that limit your capabilities. As such, it's a great compromise for early warpships to make from the point of view of the writer. And it's good to hear another person --especially Rick Sternbach-- confirm they think it's possible too.

I think I agree with Albertese. One set of engineering knowledge out strips another set and we get reactions happening in the nacelles. Then the first catches up and surpasses the second, and we have a reactor that pipes plasma to the nacelles.

However...

No matter were you have the reactions, the biggest problem with having Phoenix powered purely M/AM is the amount of antimatter required.

We don't know how to make antimatter in bulk. Different proposals for making antimatter measures "large quantities" in tens of nanograms per year. (And making antideuterium is way beyond our current reach.) Using the power requirements of End-D as a guide, it would take hundreds of micrograms to get over the warp 1 hump.

If you assume a reduction in power requirements --even by ten times less, let alone the thousands less needed by modern antimatter production abilities-- then a modern fusion reactor (as projected into the future) becomes a viable option. In which case, the only reason to go to antimatter would be if the creation of a warp field requires some special kind of radiation that only results from M/AM annihilation. There is no such radiation known to modern physics.

And that's how our understanding of the universe stands now.

So one way of arguing this is to say that it's only 49 years in the future and if we look at the rather slow progress of particle physics since 1965, it would seem a massive jump in our abilities to make antimatter is unlikely. But since there's nothing special about antimatter reactions, we can and must look to other reactions to power Phoenix.

The opposite argument would use as an example the incredible progress in nuclear chemistry from 1914 and 1963 to argue in favor of the power of pure research --as well as the impetus given by preparing for war. With that example in mind, you could argue that increasing knowledge of supersymmetry, dark matter, dark energy, and the other great unknowns of our time will lead to a method of making antimatter at the kilogram per year level. Which would mean Cochrane could scrounge from WWIII stockpiles of antimatter --and perhaps antideuterium-- to power Phoenix. In which case, it doesn't matter if you require antimatter reactions for warp fields or not: If you have antimatter, you'll want to use it.

I prefer the latter argument because it solves so many problems in one go and has an optimistic feel to it.

But I use the first argument because I like speculating what can be done with modern knowledge and it parallels my engineering pessimism.
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Old September 20 2014, 08:39 PM   #26
Nob Akimoto
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Hey zDarby.

As part of the engineering/technical fluff pieces I was writing a few months ago, I was working on a section focused on power generation technologies.

One of the working assumptions I made was that antimatter wasn't available as a practical generation source during the 21st-early 22nd century. Rather the power source for Phoenix and early generation warp ships were tokamak reactors that were descended from ITER.

I don't think it's particularly realistic to expect a functioning source of antimatter containment storage, when even in the 24th century they're using relatively bulky super conductor based magnetic storage bottles. The likelihood of something like that survive an EMP from a nuclear exchange rapidly approaches 0. Further, there's something of a "seat of the pants" and using recycled, rugged materials in Cochrane's initial project. This, too, is pretty realistic and I would imagine Cochrane would have avoided using any components that could fail: so a reliable powerplant and a rugged one (a military grade fusion plant from say a scrapped aircraft carrier) would probably make that cut.

Also, it's interesting that the Federation seems to rely solely on ICF based systems and that these ICF based generators have basically a near 0 failure rate even in combat situations compared to the M/ARA systems. I wonder if this is simply the result of being much more mature fusion technology from the Vulcans and Andorians.

Last edited by Nob Akimoto; September 20 2014 at 09:19 PM.
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Old September 21 2014, 09:42 PM   #27
Ronald Held
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

For a short flight not that much antimatter should be needed. Uncertain if it would easier to acquire before or after WW III.
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Old September 22 2014, 06:16 AM   #28
Nob Akimoto
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

It's not really acquiring it that's the problem, it's securing it and keeping it from simply being released. (Moreover, in Trek it's been at least suggested that the only thing that allows reactions to be as efficient as they are is thanks to Dilithium.)
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Old September 22 2014, 06:19 PM   #29
Ronald Held
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

With enough ground based power the antimatter could be contained. No real need for dilithium on a short flight near Warp 1.
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Old September 23 2014, 08:43 AM   #30
Ithekro
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Re: Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

But what about the ships that are built in the first few decades following this flight. Friendship One probe. Valiant's voyage to the Galactic Barrier, and the first ships that would head off to form colonies and later the earily freighters that had warp cores with Cochrane's signature? All these ships are limited to just a tad over warp 1.
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