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Old August 31 2008, 06:29 AM   #1
Technobuilder
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Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Are Dilithium Crystals a naturally occurring element in the Star Trek Universe?

The reason I ask is that in the Enterprise episode Cogenitor the Vissians mention a polymer constructed of 200 naturally occurring elements and then go on to mention that Humans had discovered only 92.

I'm guessing they are not now that I've thought it over a bit, but I still figured I should ask.

Example: Diamond from Carbon

What makes up Dilithium Crystals then, has it ever been stated?

Did Dr. Cochrane use Dilithium in the Phoenix?
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Old August 31 2008, 08:21 AM   #2
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

TOS seems to confirm them as being naturally occurring, as they are found as-is on more primitive worlds.

I don't think Cochrane used dilithium or antimatter at all on his warpship. It was likely powered by an old fission or fusion reactor.
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Old August 31 2008, 04:41 PM   #3
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

They are a totally naturally occurring substance, and in the TOS era they were often the primary issue in policy regarding contested worlds between the Federation and Klingon Empire (as well as other galactic powers and interests.) Coridan and Troyius come to mind. They were clearly mined minerals on Rura Penthe. In The Kirk era they were a finite resource and would eventually break down and need replacement, and they even had variations in quality. By the TNG era however, they could be more refined and even "rejuvenated," for lack of a better term, with the advancements in 24th century technology. The Memory Alpha website has a whole technobabbly work up on dilithium's chemical formulas and properties from canon mentionings.

http://memory-alpha.org
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Old August 31 2008, 07:50 PM   #4
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

OTOH, it's perfectly possible that dilithium can also be synthesized, the same way we can do diamonds. It would then follow that it would cost a thousand kings' ransom to create enough synthetic dilithium to power the NX-01 - but it would only cost three wives to buy a year's supply of natural dilithium for NCC-1701.

That'd go well with the novel/fanfic take on things, where (natural) dilithium is only discovered in the early 23rd century and results in massive tech breakthroughs, among them the breaking of the barrier mentioned in "The Cage". Perhaps NX-01 was the first ship to use artificial dilithium (for which one needs those lithium cracking plants we saw in "Where No Man"), but the technology never really took off until the first natural dilithium was identified. After that, mines were opened, and Starfleet could start building much bigger dilithium-powered starships in much greater quantity.

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Old September 1 2008, 01:24 AM   #5
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

So you're saying that they didn't use Dilithium on the NX-01 then?

Cause currently in real life we've only found 92 naturally occurring elements to the best of my knowledge. This is why I just guessed even though Dilithium was found in nature it wasn't necessarily an element.
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Old September 1 2008, 06:59 AM   #6
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

So you're saying that they didn't use Dilithium on the NX-01 then?
Rather, I'm saying they used relatively crude industrial dilithium on the NX-01, and not the other flavors (of which there are thousands) that typically give much better performance and are also found in the nature. You can sprinkle the stuff with all sorts of trace elements for better performance, but you can start off with fairly simple ingreditents to get modest performance.

I'd guess "dilithium" is a family of chemicals that contain two lithium atoms in the basic cell of the crystalline structure, as opposed to "trilithium", and that "paralithium" is another way to arrange those lithium atoms in the chemical. All these things can theoretically be synthesized (I mean, why couldn't they?), and the process typically involves "lithium cracking", whatever that is, but the naturally occurring dilithium is the best stuff for your 24th century warp drive. Since the natural stuff comes in multiple flavors, our VOY heroes were able to find an exceptionally stable version in "Threshold"... Which may be the future of Federation warp drive.

Also, most starships in TOS would use teeny weeny fragments of dilithium (because that's the best they can synthesize or the largest bits they can usually find in nature), arranged in larger groupings with the help of those paddle-like support matrices we first see in "The Alternative Factor". But once the Federation came to possession of giant naturally occurring dilithium crystals the size of an egg or larger, those became the favored means - as we see the E-D use such natural lumps in "Skin of Evil".

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Old September 1 2008, 10:43 PM   #7
Cary L. Brown
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Technobuilder wrote: View Post
Are Dilithium Crystals a naturally occurring element in the Star Trek Universe?

The reason I ask is that in the Enterprise episode Cogenitor the Vissians mention a polymer constructed of 200 naturally occurring elements and then go on to mention that Humans had discovered only 92.

I'm guessing they are not now that I've thought it over a bit, but I still figured I should ask.

Example: Diamond from Carbon

What makes up Dilithium Crystals then, has it ever been stated?

Did Dr. Cochrane use Dilithium in the Phoenix?
They are absolutely "naturally occurring." It wasn't 'til the TNG-era that it became possible for them to "synthesize" crystals (though ST-IV showed us "recrystalizing" them).

"Mudd's Women" addressed this, as did "Mirror Mirror" and a number of other episodes (where "dilithium crystals" were a natural resource that made certain planets objects of interest)
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Old September 2 2008, 05:32 AM   #8
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

I get that they're naturally occurring (as in found in nature), but are they an ELEMENT or just the crystalized form of something we already had discovered.

The dialog from the ENT ep suggests that they aren't, but I wasn't sure if any of you had a better explanation.

In real life there are 92 naturally occurring elements on the periodic table, but in Star Trek I'm guessing that episode should of mentioned 93 (referring to Dilithium if it is an element) or did they not use Dilithium in the Earth Star Fleet in the era of the 22nd century and it IS an element but the humans had yet to discover it...?

I still haven't really gotten the answer I've been looking for, but I don't think people understood what I was asking about specifically.
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Old September 2 2008, 06:48 AM   #9
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Well, it's well established that NX-01 runs on dilithium. It's also well established that dilithium comes in many physical forms, but that doesn't rule it out as an element (say, phosphorus, carbon etc. also have many forms). All we have on that is speculation - and the TNG-era backstage stuff certainly says dilithium is the shorthand name for a complex compound, or a family of compounds.

As for the "naturally occurring elements" stuff, we currently know a lot of "unnatural" elements past the 92 that have stable isotopes. By the time of VOY "Emanations", the Federation knows 246 elements, total, and it's quite possible that several of the new ones are stable on your tabletop.

Then again, we could read the dialogue in "Cogenitor" as establishing that Earth science knows something like 170 elements with stable isotopes, but it only knows 92 out of those 200 elements present in the alien polymer; the other 78 known ones aren't present in the polymer. So theoretically we could say dilithium is an element without contradicting ENT. I don't see why we should, though.

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Old September 2 2008, 12:57 PM   #10
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Technobuilder wrote: View Post
I get that they're naturally occurring (as in found in nature), but are they an ELEMENT or just the crystalized form of something we already had discovered.

The dialog from the ENT ep suggests that they aren't, but I wasn't sure if any of you had a better explanation.

In real life there are 92 naturally occurring elements on the periodic table, but in Star Trek I'm guessing that episode should of mentioned 93 (referring to Dilithium if it is an element) or did they not use Dilithium in the Earth Star Fleet in the era of the 22nd century and it IS an element but the humans had yet to discover it...?

I still haven't really gotten the answer I've been looking for, but I don't think people understood what I was asking about specifically.
Well, the idea that they're a compound is... odd... but since it's all "magic" they can, I s'pose, do anything that they like, huh?

I've always been partial to the idea that, once you get to a high enough atomic number, you hit another realm of stable elements, which follow the same pattern as the "first-tier" portion of the periodic table. These compounds would be things like "dihydrogen" and "dihelium" and "dilithium" and so forth. They would have almost nothing in common with the tier-one elements except for their positions within the tabular structure, however. (This tier would eventually become unstable and radioactive again... but you'd reach yet a THIRD "tier" of stable elements, which would include, among other things, "trilithium" and so forth).

It's all make-believe, obviously... but that's always been my preferred explanation.
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Old September 2 2008, 03:22 PM   #11
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Technobuilder wrote: View Post
I get that they're naturally occurring (as in found in nature), but are they an ELEMENT or just the crystalized form of something we already had discovered.
From what I have been able to gather, dilithium is in fact a real world possibility, but would never appear in the form that Trek has proposed. As Timo alluded by mention of those cracking stations, early Trek originally cited lithium as one of its bread-and-butter resources, but producers quickly realized that since lithium was totally real with known properties, someone cleverly though unwittingly added di to distinguish it. Alas dilithium is also real, if a bit exotic.

As to its elemental status, this appeared to be a bit of a contradiction on the Memory Alpha work up. Memory Alpha refers to it as an element but then presents a formula for its crystal mineral form. Minerals can be either pure elements or chemical compounds but not usually both.

Quoted from Memory Alpha (italic emphais mine):

"Dilithium, also known as radan is an element, a member of the hypersonic series, mostly occurring as crystalline mineral (known also by the longer formula- 2(5)6 dilithium 2(: )1 diallosilicate 1:9:1 heptoferranide)."

This is all technobabble of course but probably with help from science advisors. I am not sure which episodes mentioned these "precise" facts or if they came from background sources, but since realdilithium can exist in nature in some pure form, (apparently only as a gas) I suspect that "dilithium crystals" as we fondly describe them are not elements but only contain elemental dilithium within their crystalline compound matrix. Timo's attempts to reconcile the nature of lithium/dilithium/trilithium etc... with cracking stations and the ever changing format of their insertion into warp drives throughout the eras of Trekdom are very interesting and appealing.
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Old September 3 2008, 04:32 AM   #12
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Timo wrote: View Post
Well, it's well established that NX-01 runs on dilithium. It's also well established that dilithium comes in many physical forms, but that doesn't rule it out as an element (say, phosphorus, carbon etc. also have many forms). All we have on that is speculation - and the TNG-era backstage stuff certainly says dilithium is the shorthand name for a complex compound, or a family of compounds.

As for the "naturally occurring elements" stuff, we currently know a lot of "unnatural" elements past the 92 that have stable isotopes. By the time of VOY "Emanations", the Federation knows 246 elements, total, and it's quite possible that several of the new ones are stable on your tabletop.

Then again, we could read the dialogue in "Cogenitor" as establishing that Earth science knows something like 170 elements with stable isotopes, but it only knows 92 out of those 200 elements present in the alien polymer; the other 78 known ones aren't present in the polymer. So theoretically we could say dilithium is an element without contradicting ENT. I don't see why we should, though.

Timo Saloniemi
Good Point.

Basill wrote: View Post
Technobuilder wrote: View Post
I get that they're naturally occurring (as in found in nature), but are they an ELEMENT or just the crystalized form of something we already had discovered.
From what I have been able to gather, dilithium is in fact a real world possibility, but would never appear in the form that Trek has proposed. As Timo alluded by mention of those cracking stations, early Trek originally cited lithium as one of its bread-and-butter resources, but producers quickly realized that since lithium was totally real with known properties, someone cleverly though unwittingly added di to distinguish it. Alas dilithium is also real, if a bit exotic.

As to its elemental status, this appeared to be a bit of a contradiction on the Memory Alpha work up. Memory Alpha refers to it as an element but then presents a formula for its crystal mineral form. Minerals can be either pure elements or chemical compounds but not usually both.

Quoted from Memory Alpha (italic emphais mine):

"Dilithium, also known as radan is an element, a member of the hypersonic series, mostly occurring as crystalline mineral (known also by the longer formula- 2(5)6 dilithium 2(: )1 diallosilicate 1:9:1 heptoferranide)."

This is all technobabble of course but probably with help from science advisors. I am not sure which episodes mentioned these "precise" facts or if they came from background sources, but since realdilithium can exist in nature in some pure form, (apparently only as a gas) I suspect that "dilithium crystals" as we fondly describe them are not elements but only contain elemental dilithium within their crystalline compound matrix. Timo's attempts to reconcile the nature of lithium/dilithium/trilithium etc... with cracking stations and the ever changing format of their insertion into warp drives throughout the eras of Trekdom are very interesting and appealing.
Yeah, I checked the Memory Alpha entry and walked away more confused than when I started reading it. Wasn't exactly helpful.

Of course I've gotten used to a lot of Star Trek's Mythology being internally consistent and this might just be one of those instances where it's not.
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Old September 5 2008, 04:10 PM   #13
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

Gotta get my little plug in every so once in a while:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hemM8rrx2Yw
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Old September 6 2008, 10:14 PM   #14
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Re: Dilithium Crystals Natrually Occurring?

I don't know if it was mentioned on the show, but in the Enterprise-Relaunch book 'The Good That Men Do', the planet Coridan Prime is covered in massive deposits of dilithium until a Romulan attack sets off a massive chain reaction on the surface of the substance, resulting in 1.5 billion dead Coridanites.
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