Powering Pheonix: Pu/AM

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by zDarby, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 3, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    It was an "anachronism."

    --Alex
     
  2. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    On the USS Sovereign
    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.
     
  3. Rick Sternbach

    Rick Sternbach Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2002
    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
     
  4. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 3, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    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
     
  5. zDarby

    zDarby Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2013
    Location:
    NorCal
    I have used as an assumption in some of my fanfics (all unpublished) that early human warp ships used antimatter reactions within the nacelles.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.
     
  6. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 22, 2001
    Location:
    The People's Republic of Austin
    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: Sep 20, 2014
  7. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    On the USS Sovereign
    For a short flight not that much antimatter should be needed. Uncertain if it would easier to acquire before or after WW III.
     
  8. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 22, 2001
    Location:
    The People's Republic of Austin
    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.)
     
  9. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    On the USS Sovereign
    With enough ground based power the antimatter could be contained. No real need for dilithium on a short flight near Warp 1.
     
  10. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Location:
    Republic of California
    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.
     
  11. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    On the USS Sovereign
    I think there is nothing canonical, but old novels have suggested you can get to around warp 4 without a dilithium focus. Since ST:Enterprise came out maybe that changed? Did the freighters traveling at warp 1+
    Use Dilithium?
     
  12. zDarby

    zDarby Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2013
    Location:
    NorCal
    Hello, Nob Akimoto.

    I would be like to apologize for how long it's taken me to respond. Honestly, I thought the wordiness of my last post had killed this thread and I didn't check back until just now, and even that was an accident.

    Again, I apologize.

    As someone who likes trek-tech speculation, I would positively love to read what you wrote on the subject of fusion powered warp reactors. I know my opinion is little more than an opinion, and I enjoy having my assumptions challenged.

    I have to admit a prejudice against ITER and her offspring. TAKOMAKs are large, ungainly beasts with little change of shrinking them down. I really don't know how one could shrink one small enough to put it into a Phoenix. (Now that's a strange sentence if I ever heard one!!) The magnetic fields would have to be exceptionally powerful.....But, again, I am prejudiced.

    Still, there are other forms of fusion power that *would* fit in Phoenix and, if we reduce the power requirements one or more orders of magnitude from 14GW, could power her handily, too.

    You make a good point about antimatter containment: It's hard. I've not heard of a practical method yet. The thing is, it wouldn't take much. There are several proposals to use antimatter as the seed to both subcritical fission reactors and reaction containment for fusion reactor. I was surprised at how little these projects required: a few micrograms to tens nanograms. And, if you can figure out a good antimatter trap, it could be supplied by the antimatter found in Earth's Van Allan Belt.

    I always assumed that in the 23rd and 24th centuries the fusion engines were Gravity Confinement Fusion, not Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF). You're right that it's rock-solid tech in trek. The reason might be the centuries of experience with it....Plus that, by itself, fusion fuel is not particularly volatile.

    Ithekro has a point about antimatter, though: It was a part of Friendship One, which was launched in 2067, only 2 years after Phoenix. And it went across the galaxy without blowing up, which means its ability to bottle up its antimatter is pretty impressive.

    Indeed, if we make the assumption that Friendship One continued at 1wf for its entire 300 year flight, then a maximum energy storage --again, based on Ent-D power usage of 220MW for 1wf cruise-- would be 2.1e18 joules, or 12 kilograms of antimatter --plus 12 grams of matter-- at 100% efficiency. Even if you assume a 1000 fold reduction in power required, that's still 12 grams, an enormous amount of antimatter.

    If you use my proposed antiproton/plutonium reactor and assume 220MW (of Ent-D 1wf cruise) than you only need 1.5 milligrams of antimatter but also 150 tonnes of plutonium. Obviously, this is impractical. With a thousand fold reduction of power, this proposal becomes practical, with 1.5 micrograms of AM and 150 kilograms of Pu. Still, it seems unlikely this approach would be used as, again, fusion would seem an easier approach at these low power requirements.

    These are powerful arguments in favor of Earth being able to mass produce antimatter in the mid 21st century, at least on the order 10 grams per year, if not 10 kilograms per year.

    Antimatter containment is still a big problem and right now we simply don't know how to make it happen on a large or long term scale. All we can really say is that Friendship 1 solved that problem. And if you look up Friendship 1 on Memory Alpha, Rick Sternbach is quoted as saying the torus-and-cylinder structure on the back of the model is the antimatter storage pod. He further states this is an experimental apparatus for later manned vessels... Which I assume would be for vessels like SS Valiant.
     
  13. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Location:
    Republic of California
    Could it also be that perhaps we misunderstand what the antimatter is used for in warp travel. Could it be more to power the jump past light speed and them the power requirements drop off in sustaining a warp field as long as you aren't accelerting to a higher warp speed?

    Antimatter is useful in space travel power systems because it takes up less mass that most other systems for the amount of energy you get out of it. However it is presently very expensive to produce and takes more energy to make that is puts out. But the pratical nature of spaceships and the need to carry less mass makes antimatter a desirable fuel source.

    The power question, like say for the Friendship One probe. If it maintianed warp one (or slightly over that) for centuries to get to the near side of the Gamma Quadrant, (aside from needing help getting much farther than 300 light years away from Earth in 300 years) it would need a lot of fuel...if warp drives work by needing a constant flow of energy at the same level it took to get to warp one. If it needs far less to maintain a subspace field and basically coast at warp one, that a probe could maintain speed for a very long time, as could a manned deep space probe mission like SS Valiant.
     
  14. zDarby

    zDarby Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2013
    Location:
    NorCal
    Itherko, very quickly because it's late here:

    The power curve found in the TNG Tech manual would comply perfectly with the scenario you suggest: loadsof power needed to get over the 1wf hump (14,000 megawatt) and then just a comparitive trickle for cruising at 1wf (220 megawatt). My first calculation ignored the few seconds at 1wf cruise and dealt with the jump for this very reason.

    Friendship 1, however, uses way more power while cruising than it did getting over the hump, so I calculated for the cruise. The amount of fusion fuel would be approximately 150 times more by mass than M/AM...or more depending on the specific fuel.

    *Edited to change tone: removing some haughtiness.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014
  15. JES

    JES Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    Ocoee, Florida
    When the Zombie apocalypse rolls around, that will definitely kill any prospects of space exploration in the foreseeable future.

    Then again, I wonder how we are even going to face the prospect of having to place nuclear reactors in space. We don't even like doing so right now!

    Any talks about one way trips to Mars would be mute, if we could turn nuclear power into some form of impulse drive!

    But we're going to need some sort of powerful reactor in order to power any form of FTL!!
     
  16. JES

    JES Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    Ocoee, Florida
    Anyhow, on a more serious note, I've always assumed that the Phoenix used some sort of nuclear reactor for her warp drive.

    Antimatter is very difficult to produce, and very tricky to contain. And we all know what happens if it touches matter. *POOF!*

    And it is catastrophic if the power it creates when annihilated isn't contained in the reactor.

    Always assumed that Masao's Little Nell was the first ship to use an Antimatter Reactor, though maybe Earth used antimatter to boost their reactors, once their industry recovered from WW III, and they could actually produce the stuff in reasonable quantities, though we have to even assume when they might've been able to do so, because we certainly can't right now!

    Being far smaller than a Galaxy class would mean that less power would be needed just to get the Phoenix to break the warp barrier.
     
  17. JES

    JES Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    Ocoee, Florida
    Sorry, yet another consecutive post. Too lazy to read everything at once, so I'm just responding to stuff as I find them interesting:

    I assume that the Friendship probably supplemented it's onboard fuel, by using it's bussard collectors; being programmed to through nebula, or any other source of hydrogen for her to burn, and keep her going for her 300 year journey.

    Kind of reminds of this one story that I read about in a space physics book at the library, Tau Nova, which has a fusion ramjet vessel, that keeps going and going when the crew can't get the engines to turn off.
    Maybe the Friendship could do something similar.
     
  18. zDarby

    zDarby Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2013
    Location:
    NorCal
    In general, after calculating the total energy you require and then dividing by c^2 to get the total amount of mass you need to convert to energy, you can divide the result by the following factors to find how much mass of the corresponding fuel you need.

    -- M/AM
    Antimatter -- 2


    -- Fission [This is energy release directly from the reaction, not radioactive release sometime there after.]
    Plutonium --- 0.000851 (851e-6)
    Uranium235 -- 0.0008262 (826.2e-6)
    Uranium233 -- 0.0008329 (832.9e-6)

    -- Fusion [Considered possible with today's tech]
    Deuterium+Deuterium -- 0.000973 . (973e-6)
    Deuterium+Tritium ---- 0.00376 .. (3.75e-30
    Catalyzed Deuterium -- 0.00384 .. (3.84e-3)
    Helium3+Helium3 ------ 0.0023 ... (2.3e-3)
    Proton+Boron --------- 0.000775 . (775e-6)

    -- Fusion [Considered possible sometime in the future.]
    Proton Catalyzed Deuterium - 0.00634 .. (6.34e-3)
    Proton+Proton chains (all) - 0.007123 . (7.123e-3)

    Proton->Nickle56 [close to best possible] 0.00897 (8.97e-3)
     
  19. bryce

    bryce Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2004
    Location:
    bryce
    I have always wondered where 'ol Zeff would have gotten the AM (Anti-Matter) for his warp drive - much less the dilithium crystals(!) - and always assumed that using a *nuclear warhead's* nuclear material for power would have made MUCH more sense.

    BUT...Geordi *told* Zefram Cochrane that his design for the warp core (or intermix chamber maybe) hadn't changed much in 300 years!!! Implying that it was a M/AM intermix chamber. *headdesk*

    So all I can assume is that maybe in the war some sides used low yield AM weapons - and that's that warhead that he found. (This pre-supposes a major breakthrough in the ability to manufacture anti-matter in the next few decades...hell, maybe arguments over that even *triggered* the war!)

    And Voyager's "Friendship One" I guess kinda implies that DID happen. (Still, I wish The Phoenix would have been plain old *nuclear* powered.)

    But now them...where did he get the dilithium crystals!?

    (And *really* copper tubing for the intermix chamber!? I hope they weren't going to try to pump the anti-matter or even warp plasma through that - or it definitely WOULD (not "might") need some kind of nano-polymer-whatever lining to protect it from MELTING - or EXPLODING!!!
     
  20. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Location:
    Republic of California
    No dilithium. Just a raw reaction that is directed to the nacelles, or in the nacelles. Effective, but not idea.

    The basic idea for "current" FLT drives still require some sort of exotic material. And given the size of the ship, fission drives would be too large, and fusion drives might be too large, or just not provide enough power to jump to warp. It might be enough to sustain it though.