Replicator Bulk Matter?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Go-Captain, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 23, 2015
    I could have sworn there is an episode in DS9 which shows or says the replicators use a jell from which everything is replicated, and to which all things are de-replicated into. I thought that episode might be DS9: "Babel" but when it shows inside the guts of the replicator there is only a tube full of red, bubbling liquid.

    The closest "Babel" gets is when Kira says all the replicators have bio filters to screen out contaminants and viruses. That would only be needed if replicators are just rearranging matter into a new form, more like a teleporter, rather than making matter from energy and vice versa.

    Is there an episode which shows or says replicators use some sort of bulk material, rather than turning energy straight into matter?
     
  2. MantaBase

    MantaBase Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2015
    Weird, I seem to recall a bag of blue goo. Am I imagining?
     
  3. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Location:
    USA
    If memory serves, the first time they ever showed a replicator (ST:TNG, of of the first few episodes of the first season), it converted pure energy to matter, so the warp engines would be off-line "for hours", but also they needed a scale model of the device to be replicated.

    And just for the record, I hate replicators even more than I do holo-decks for all the times they're used as plot devices in lazy story lines. Some people hate transporters for the same reason.
     
  4. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2009
    Location:
    Pre-Warp Civilization of Alaska
    ^ Might you be thinking of the blue 'bio-neural gel packs' that we sometimes saw on "Voyager" that served as part of that ship's next-technology computer system?

    I wonder if it makes more sense, from both a consideration of limited storage space on a ship and the efficiency/streamlining of the process to simply shunt off some of the energy the ship produces for use by replicators (rather than having to spend energy on BOTH creating the replicated object AND energizing the bulk matter to produce it that object.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    There are no explicit mentions of a source of raw material AFAIK, and sometimes it appears such a source would be very difficult to come by - in TNG "Survivors", a fridge-sized unit appears self-contained, adding to the infrastructure of the survivor house rather than tapping from it.

    A pattern is needed, though - and replicators seem versatile in accepting both abstract patterns and physical items (although I think the scale model in TNG "The Child" was just for demonstration, not for use as a replication template, the "scale model" in DS9 "Rivals" definitely acted as a template!). It makes associated sense that the replicator would also be capable of disassembling things (such as dirty dishes), then. But that doesn't mean it's recycling or saving or anything like that. Might well be that it just chops up stuff when told to, scanning it when further told to, and never really needing to understand what it scans. This might be why there's the biofilter functionality included - against mishaps in the occasional use of physical templates.

    I very much doubt there are any green values involved in replication. Otherwise, the technology wouldn't be used for everyday meals and doing the dishes, two things that definitely have "low-tech" alternatives. Either replication is trivially cheap and clean to start with, or then the UFP simply has no shortage of energy and thus is free to use the replicator to do everything from creation of complex components to wiping of one's nose. Indeed, it would be wasteful to go for the complexity of "low tech" in those applications when there's a replicator in every home.

    Well, there's "Distant Voices" where the replicator leaks amber goo. And then there's "Learning Curve" where the gel-packs of the Voyager are green goo when healthy and black when not. But I, too, have a mental image of blue goo... No idea where that fits.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
    Go-Captain likes this.
  6. Jerikka Dawn

    Jerikka Dawn Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2004
    In my own personal head canon, replicators, by their very nature, require their source matter to be Latinum as that solves an entire class of plot issues throughout the franchise.
     
    Jedman67 likes this.
  7. Saturn0660

    Saturn0660 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Location:
    saturn0660

    Indeed.. I get the feeling while it might not be "cheap" to use the replicator everyday. It's better than trying to carry everything to feed(Enterprise-D) 3+ meals a day for 1000+ for 5 years. It's not like Navy's are today with Tenders ships. Course, in the TNG tech manual is even talks about ship using gas giants to scoop gas.
    I think we've just never seen that but likely happens at every system that has a GG.
     
  8. bryce

    bryce Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I would imagine that the Enterprise replicators use some sort of bulk matter - and probably recycled waste as well.

    And this is why: E=MC^2 means that a *tiny* but of matter can be converted into an ENORMOUS amount of energy (which is why the ship only needs a tiny amount of anti-matter mixed with a tiny amount of matter to make the ship go.)

    However the reverse of that equation means that it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of energy to make a *tiny* amount of matter.

    So unless the Enterprise has some super-batteries (in which case using matter-antimatter fuel would be unnecessary) - then it makes much more sense that the replicators take some bulk matter and rearrange in into replicated food and clothing and stuff. And all the ship's waste in re-converted back into that bulk matter supply.

    Now, the question is if it's just all some bulk mono-matter that gets turned into anything they want, no-matter where it is on the periodic table, or if it's differentiated matter - made of various stored elements and a LOT of organic chemicals to make into fats, carbs, and proteins.

    I think that it probably takes a lot of energy to convert atoms of lighter elements to atoms of another heavier elements, but it *can* be done, but to save energy it's *mostly* differentiated matter stores, to which extra energy can be added to if necessary to make heavier elements. And if need be, they can just scoop up hydrogen, and use it to make *anything*, but that probably requires a lot of energy to make heavier elements form just bulk hydrogen.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Location:
    T'Girl
    Good point.
     
  10. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 23, 2015
    I love replicators because the team inadvertently invented universal 3D printing with the concept. I do dislike holodeck episodes where it becomes a trap, but I like it when it deals with AI intelligence. In a way, any episode with the Doctor is a holodeck episode. :rommie:

    I hate to admit it, but I may very well be thinking of the gel packs from Voyager, specifically the episode where the cheese mold infects the packs.

    Logistically, it is true that running off one source, the ship's antimatter and matter supply, would be superior to requiring a ship to carry a periodic table's worth of elements.

    The issue I have with replicators being true energy to matter/matter to energy machines is why wouldn't the ship just run off a replicator turning regular matter into energy? Instead of antimatter the ships could run off lead or any other heavy element to create a high density fuel supply.

    Another issue I have is, normal replicators only have atomic precision, as in they can only build chemicals, and they aren't perfect at doing so. We know replicators are not perfect at constructing molecules because there are drugs, living things, latinum (which I think must be a chemical) and devices which they cannot make. If we are to believe they can make matter from energy that would mean they have subatomic precision, yet with subatomic precision any sort of chemical, no matter how fancy, should not be beyond their ability.

    That being said, there are superior replicators which can reproduce living material, and by Voyager the normal replicators seem capable of this. Even in DS9 the Cardassian replicators produce a virus, if that counts as a living thing. So, high precision is not out of the question, but for the replicators of TNG there is a definite limit which does not fit the concept of only energy to matter and back.

    Energy wise, it really should take an amount of matter and antimatter annihilation equal to the mass of the object being replicated, if not more energy, which means energy wise it would be extremely expensive. But, if the replicator is only moving atoms around to build chemicals, then the energy levels would only be that of fusion and fission for replication and de-replication respectively. For me, that sounds more efficient, despite seemingly worse logistics.
    Also in VOY: "Resolutions" they have a portable replicator at least mentioned if not seen, and an even smaller one in "False Profits." Neither have a matter storage tank, and neither do they have a visible power source. The latter really conflicts hard with the idea that reducing replicator use on Voyager would save lots of power. Stuff in Star Trek is supposed to be wirelessly powered, but in neither of the above cases do we have mention of portable power sources.

    I think the example in the "The Child" is definitely an example of the finished pattern.

    512 extremely feature heavy fist size units, requiring full use of idle warp power for 2 hours. That would be enormous amount of energy considering how much power Data states is the output when idle in "True Q." Something billion bigga-watts. That example fits better with straight energy to matter, and Voyager's replicator rule.


    There are also holodeck examples where vague instructions result in what the people want. Also, the Delta Flyer was designed completely in a holodeck, with the design polished in 3 days, I think, and constructed in another 3 or four.

    In DS9 I got the impression the bio-filter on the replicator is for outgoing goods, rather than ingoing, just based on the context of a virus coming out of the replicator. It should work both ways, but I don't see it mattering on produced objects unless a virus can somehow be pulled through from a matter tank. Although, it does make sense as a way to protect against malicious patterns.

    It's hard to imagine going for replicators if they're vastly more energy intensive than something like a protein resequencer, even if they're vastly more versatile and pleasing. Yet, even Voyager has the things in every room. Even Equinox must have had them everywhere, and that's a minuscule ship.

    Well, there's "Distant Voices" where the replicator leaks amber goo. And then there's "Learning Curve" where the gel-packs of the Voyager are green goo when healthy and black when not. But I, too, have a mental image of blue goo... No idea where that fits.[/QUOTE]
    I kind of remember blue goo too, but it might be a miss-remembering of the black gel pack goo.

    Wasn't the amber goo a replicator error of some sort. I seem to remember a broken replicator creating some sort of sludge, but it was in a cup, maybe.

    We have never heard of or seen a ship replenish its antimatter stock, but Worf did mention an antimatter generator when his human parents visited.

    We saw the NX-01 top its deuterium, but that was at a planet which was using devices like oil pumps to pull deuterium up from underneath a planet's surface. Obviously the people who wrote that don't know deuterium can be harvested from large bodies of water.

    Voyager also harvested deuterium from that Demon class planet, again forgetting that deuterium exists in any water based ocean.
     
  11. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    I've always just assumed this to be the case: latinum is valuable as a currency because you can use it to make just about anything, and if you have your own supply of latinum you can make things that you otherwise wouldn't be authorized to make from the public (tightly regulated) supply. Every drop of latinum you earn through work is luxury and nobody can tell you what you can or can't do with it.

    This would explain why the Federation "doesn't use money." Because they've basically gone to what is essentially a barter economy where any consumer project is directly equivalent to any OTHER consumer project, provided you have a replicator handy.

    Using deuterium for fusion reactions is supposed to increase the reactive cross section of the fuel and reduce the energy requirements for the reaction; you can achieve fusion at a lower temperature and reduce your confinement needs. This reaction is problematic in that it has a lot of byproducts that have to be purged from the reactor to keep operating efficiently, but that would probably wind up being vented through the impulse engines anyway.

    But there's no particular reason for Federation fusion reactors to still be using deuterium, not at their technology level. A direct proton-proton chain reaction should be possible at this point with neutral helium as a final byproduct and thus the primary component of impulse engine exhaust. That would also simplify their fuel needs, since Deuterium only makes up about one half of a percent of the free hydrogen in the interstellar medium and less than a fraction of a percent in the oceans of any given planet.

    Basically: a starship fusing deuterium is a bit like a submarine with a coal-fired boiler. It makes some sense at a primitive enough tech level, but a hundred years later, it's just plain sad.
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    But going to warp probably takes much, much more. And from "The Child", we do learn that the replicators get their power from the warp engines ultimately.

    Just the fact that something might hinge on E=mcc isn't sufficient to declare it a high-energy process in the Trek universe, where the general standards are much higher to begin with.

    We might even argue that it's confirmed that the E-D relies on this streamlining and has no backup of readymade materials, as in "Night Terrors" where the heroes wish to employ explosives or other energetic chemicals, but a power shortage means that, as Data puts it, "We no longer have the power to reproduce complex elements in the replicator".

    Good point, and this would seem to be evidence that the process cannot really be run in reverse: disassembling the dirty dishes is just as "expensive" as creating the delicious meal in the first place.

    No categorical statement about this is ever made on screen, though. It may instead simply be fairly difficult to replicate puppies or fortunes - too difficult to be worth the effort. If it costs you a thousand dollars to forge a single bill, you can't profit even if you print hundred-dollar bills, and things get even worse if you have to take into account serial numbers and a 24th century system that keeps track of every single one of those (latinum, even if a "mere" chemical, could well have built-in signatures for such tracking).

    But again, this claim was not exactly made. Rather, the replicators were significantly damaged in the early seasons where the heroes could find no friendly ports of call. Power might never have been an issue, but availability decidedly was.

    That the rations system survives past the repairing of the replicators might simply reflect Janeway's ideas on discipline.

    ...The chief feature supposedly being containment fields. In "Tribunal", we learn that photon torpedo warheads are not trivially replicable, and that the Maquis would be likely to steal them if they could. Those, too, are supposedly devices featuring intricate containment fields. Perhaps there is something inherently demanding about the creation of such fields, making replication a slow process?

    Similarly, even in their damaged state, the replicators of the Voyager can create many intricate items such as living tissue in "Emanations" - yet they cannot create vital photon torpedoes. After the first two seasons and supposed comprehensive repairs, the torpedo problem goes away, as it should if Janeway now has regained the usual replications means and can properly prioritize their use.

    Yup, it was an erroneous product coming out of the unit. In a dream sequence to boot - few other instances show anything leaking from the device as if coming out of a faucet. In "Civil Defense", some sort of an energy beam does come from that location and apparently charges up the phaser than then starts to harass the Ops team.

    It would certainly make sense to go for the best possible source of concentrated deuterium, rather than expending energy for enriching the deuterium - especially in times of dire energy crisis! It could well be that trying to suck D from oceans would have doomed the Voyager after her many failures at getting properly enriched D from civilized ports, mining colonies and whatnot.

    Depending on the exact properties of the magical forcefield technology, "fusing" just about anything ought to be possible - including elements on the wrong side of curve in the conventional analysis. Push iron against iron with enough force and you do get energy out of it - provided you can cheat with the pushing process by using your cheaper-than-real forcefields. Push something on the right (well, left) side of the curve and you get actual fusion. And you really don't have to sweat efficiency, so D-D fusion may be an optimal solution under some unknown criteria after all.

    Now, what might those criteria be...?

    (Whatever they are, it ties in to future fuels being "neutronic": deuterium and tritium eminently qualify!)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2003
    It has been consistently said on-screen that replicators convert energy into matter.
    There is no 'bulk matter' needed to generate something.

    However, replicators also seem to have the ability to convert matter into energy (aka recycling, in which case, you get less energy back into the system from a finished meal from the utensils and dishes, so some amount of energy reclamation does take place which is used later on).

    Replicators also might have another option... to manipulate matter on a subatomic level and convert it from one form into another.
    Namely, this is one of the things that was missing from Voyager (at least officially).
    They could have made pit stops in various star systems and used asteroids to reclaim raw matter (which is composed of everyday elements which the Federation would use to create superior synthetic materials anyway).
    So, it would likely be a less energy intensive process to use raw matter from say an asteroid or stellar debries (any kind) to get base elements which can then be rearranged into whatever is needed.

    Or, they can disassemble this raw matter into energy for storage.
    Either way, Voyager shouldn't have had issues with replicating spare parts and other things... but then again, at least in the early seasons, they DID experience various power issues which prompted them to conserve energy to begin with.

    But I agree that replicators don't need bulk matter. Its never stated, and it makes sense that they would be converting pure energy into matter.
    Picard even explained to Morriarty that they discovered how energy and matter are interchangeable.
    And Data in one of the episodes clearly mentioned they lacked the ENERGY to replicate more complex elements.
    So its a matter of energy availability and conversion efficiency, not matter.
    And technically, you could replicate anything, if you have enough energy to do it.
    Gold pressed latinum would hardly be difficult to replicate... but then again, the Ferengi might have used it before invention of replicators, and by retaining the use of monetary based economics (unlike the Federation), they decided to use it as a major tool of exchange (currency, to them).

    Bajorans were limited in resources during DS9 and they likely didn't have their own replicator technology which was widely available... or potentially powerful energy sources to power them.
    But DS9 is a generally poor example.
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    This is the thing that seems patently untrue in Trek. Different things present different levels of difficulty in replication - and this is not proportional to obvious, "neutral" things such as mass or volume, but to complexity of some unspecificed sort. You can easily have a huge tasty hamburger, but a much smaller vial of biomimetic gel or a tiny slip of GPL is a no-go.

    Does it take more energy to do more complex things? Perhaps, indirectly so, if complexity prolongs the processing time (this could explain "The Child" where processing time indeed is explicitly long).

    Well, it's a most complex type of currency: it is not just a substance (like gold), or a combination of substance with a signature (like coins), or the same but with a signature one can cross-check for abstract value from artificial scarcity (like bills) but adds this "gold-pressing" thing to the mix. Earth never used currency with such a fourth level of complication. This complication might be for a reason.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 23, 2015
    Indeed, with replicators running in reverse, for any energy gain at all, combined with the abundance of fusion fuel in the universe, and the ability of Starfleet ships to generate their own antimatter Voyager should never have been under any sort of energy shortage.

    If we go with the limit on replication being power requirements rising in proportion, or faster, with elemental number, then that's at least one limit. Another limit was the replication of living things. Another is the replication of certain drugs. At least one is of a particular mineral water. Then there is latinum which is specifically stated to be unreplicatable, that's why the Ferengi use it, however it is easy to imagine Latinum becoming replicatable due to an abundance of energy, and Latinum representing a value of energy rather than it just being itself.

    Some of the above is why I still believe there is some sort of chemical precision limit of some sort. Except, an inability to properly place atoms in a chemical form does not jive with an ability to generate atoms on a subatomic level, as far as I know. If subatomic precision exists, I would imagine atomic precision should be trivial. However, this leaves me thinking, at least in Star Trek, subatomic precision and atomic precision must be two different things when it comes to replicators.

    Voyager does seem to show they have increased their atomic precision, considering they can trivially replicate living tissue by that point. Even a Cardassian replicator can replicate a virus in DS9. But, where does that leave Latinum, torpedo casings, and certain other pieces of hardware which have to be shipped to replace broken parts on the Defiant? Those items probably have to due with power limits on subatomic creation of elements, or they have complex chemical structures which limit their creation, or both.

    One might imagine Voyager having to sit in a location chugging a ready fuel supply in order to have the power to generate advanced machinery which would normally have to be built either on a factory station, or planet bound factory with a connection to a planetary power grid's abundance of energy. Alternatively, Voyager might lack the peak power output required to make any top end exotic technology, and might have had to commission local factories, or had to pay for power to be beamed to the ship. A third option is some sort of computational limit at least for chemicals, or one of raw precision in moving the chemicals around. It might be that there is a part of the replicator specific to elemental creation, while a separate portion assembles chemicals. That would cleanly explain the dichotomy.

    I bring this up because Voyager exceeded its own stated amount of shuttles, it exceeded its own amount of stated torpedoes, and it built two Delta Fliers, both of which are advanced ships in their own right.
    I think they use gold only because it's a non-reactive substance, not because of any great value in itself, and it is more likely that gold alloys with latinum in a particularly excellent way. When Morn spits out, "100 bars worth of latinum" it barely fills the bottom of a shot glass. The implication is latinum is extremely dilute in the metal bars, strips, and slips, rather than existing as a liquid pocket in the denominations. That also fits well with how there can be solid latinum objects, and latinum plated objects.

    Although, the Ferengi did place some value on gold early on in the TNG, later, in one scene, Quark says he is left with worthless gold, but he was angry over having lost Latinum, which is obviously more valuable, so it was likely hyperbole. More telling is he says primitive societies can find value in gold dust.

    The main source of value in Latinum is supposed to be its inability to be replicated. From that it is easy to imagine it as some sort of naturally occurring element or chemical. However, it is not explained either way, and basing money on a commodity seems a little too regressive. I like to think of it as an artificial creation of tremendous chemical complexity, and perhaps using elements outside the reach of imaginable replicators. In that way it would be more like modern coins.

    http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Latinum
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    ...Perhaps they were in the mistaken belief that it was being used for holding latinum?

    This applies to "The Last Outpost" and the Ferengi interest in the glittering Federation items. For "The Price", the Ferengi no doubt pretended to consider gold valuable because it would be valuable to their primitive customer!

    But nothing of the sort is ever stated on screen. And many a thing that on one occasion has been left unreplicated because of supposed insurmountable difficulties is seen replicated in another context: perhaps damaged replicators were fixed, or more processing time or computing power became available, or the stakes simply changed? So the failure of our heroes and villains to replicate latinum could well stem from non-absolute practical limitations.

    In a society where concrete commodities are in fact abstractions, thanks to the replicator, it sort of makes funny sense.

    But there's no secret to making coins. I could make them at home easily enough.

    The point is, I have no motivation to: every coin I make would cost me more than its market value, because I don't have access to the cheap mass production methods of mints, or to the financial crutches on which minting is based.

    Bills are a bit more difficult, not only because it's affordable for mints to include dirtier tricks in them due to their greater nominal value, but also because they introduce levels of abstraction: I could fake convincing bills easily enough, provided I could arrange for my preferred level of convincing (i.e. use small bills, or suitably distract the other guy when handing over the hundred-dollar bill), but to really profit, I'd have to circumvent the serial number system.

    The point with physical cash is that somebody was able to make it in the first place. So somebody else can always reproduce the feat. Same with latinum, probably (unless it's extracted from rare nebular eels at rising startide only).

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Location:
    Republic of California
    Thing is, there has to be a reason for latinum to be worth something to the Ferengi and other species that use replicators. Gold and gems can be replicated so they would hold no value as a currency. But we never seen latinum replicated, even when it would be useful to the plot. Instead it is valued and used within the Ferengi sphere of economic influence, which seems to include Cardassia and Bajor as well as several worlds near Romulan space. Though it does not seem to include Klingon space nor Federation space outside the Cardassian border regions and maybe a few worlds near the Romulan Neutral Zone.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    I'd think "it's money" is reason enough. That's the reason why we worship pieces of paper or worthless scrap metal today. We have agreed on specific rules of make-believe that give worth to these items that inherently have absolutely none (a hundred-dollar bill isn't any good as toilet paper, even).

    And I can press coins back in the basement. But those still hold value, because there exists an agreement as to how this worthless metal with trivially forgeable printing on it is to be used as currency.

    ...We never see gold or gems replicated...

    Even then. Mainly because when our heroes need money, they almost by default are outside the civilized society and cut off from replicator access.

    ...One wonders whether the replicators that are in use within that sphere are Ferengi ones, or Cardassian? Rom knows his way around the machines on DS9, but then again, he's a wizard with foreign hardware as well. And Empok Nor also had (inert) replicators visible. But if the Ferengi provided those for Terok Nor, why not for Empok Nor as well?

    Another culture that operates replicators yet uses currency (darseks), which is something Worf carries with him in "Firstborn" and would be able to hand over to Alexander, were he to choose to do so. Physical or abstract? Sounds more like the former. But with replicators, this simply shouldn't matter - money can only be money through abstract agreement, no matter what form it takes.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Saturn0660

    Saturn0660 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Location:
    saturn0660
    I always took it as while latinum can most likely be replicated you never would. The "fuel" costs would be to much to do so. So it's simply cheaper to mine the stuff.
     
  20. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2003
    Realistically, given what we know of the Federation's technical abilities, they would never really need gold pressed latinum.
    I think the only reason they used it on DS9 was because the station at the time was Bajoran (who still had a monetary based economy), and likely, the Bajorans used gold pressed latinum as a main source to trade with the Ferengi and the larger interstellar community who had a monetary based system as well and had their representatives coming to DS9.

    The Federation would mainly use currency out of respect for cultures that still use it - as a sort of a way of maintaining good relations and promoting alliances (a way of bridging the gap between cultures at the start), but would have no real use for it inside Federation.

    At any rate, we have not really been presented with intricate limitations of replicators apart from energy requirements being the primary obstacle in replicating certain things.

    Since replicators convert energy into matter, it would stand to reason that it is easier to replicate everyday stuff such as food, water, clothing, even spare parts.
    Move onto bigger things such as shuttles, the energy requirements conceivably jump up by a large amount and for that you actually need industrial grade replicators.

    Now, replicating anti-matter for example would likely not be too practical without dedicated facilities on board.
    It might be more practical to replicate a mechanism capable of synthesizing omicron particles which were mentioned they can enrich anti-matter reserves (might work along the lines of cell-devision to accomplish the goal) - or a mechanism that can run off solar energy in a remote star system which can generate anti-matter itself.
    Or just replicate omicron particles themselves (but again, would they be energy intensive to replicate depending on how complex they might be? - Voyager crew seemed to have thought so, otherwise, they wouldn't have gone into that live nebula in an attempt to retrieve them).

    So, it would likely be a matter of energy availability and complexity of various matter that dictate what can be replicated.
    Starships have a certain amount of energy reserves that would last them say 3 to 5 years (depending on their mission profiles - this would likely include replication, repairs, etc.) before the warp cores need to be refilled (unless the crew in question finds an option to replenish their supplies on the go - which should be more than possible).

    We also saw Voyager crew for instance gaining technology in season 7 which tripled their replicator efficiency, allowing them to create enough food per day for 500 people using 50% less power they needed before the upgrades.

    I would imagine direct e=mc2 doesn't necessarily apply here, or if it does, then the Federation likely managed to bend the rules (much like with Warp drive) and the more they improve on a given technology, the more they can replicate with less energy (without sacrificing 'quality').