Warp Engines Burning Up

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by blssdwlf, Aug 14, 2010.

  1. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    I didn't find anything specific doing a search so I thought I'd ask this about warp engines:

    This might be specifically a TOS thing, but why do the warp engines start to threaten to overheat/burn out when the ship is grabbed by a generic tractor beam?

    I'm defining "generic tractor beam" by saying it grabs the ship like in "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Motion Picture" and the warp engines end up somehow fighting it.

    There are other tractor beam technology out there but they generally disrupt or immediately shuts down the power systems (like in "Arena" and "Relics") in which we have a known cause of what happened to the engines.

    Anyway, if the warp engines are just creating a warp field why would they start to overheat when the ship is grabbed? Are they overheating because they've lost subspace traction and are suddenly spinning out of control? Or are they overheating because the subspace traction is too great and they're overloading the "gears"?
     
  2. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I kinda compared it to an old-fashioned steam-powered engine. Too much pressure and no way to release it, leads to overheating in the mains.

    A technobabble answer might be too much electroplasma (warp plasma) bouncing around inside the nacelles could fuse the injectors there, and then cause energy to rebound back into the warp core and send the whole system into critical. At that point, not even plasma coolant will do trick if the temperatures inside the warp core/main reactor keeps going higher and higher, IMO. Eventually, some vital component won't be able to take the excess heat and fail...
     
  3. Vanyel

    Vanyel The Imperious Leader Premium Member

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    Maybe it's just like in Best of Both Worlds when the 1701D couldn't keep up with the Borg Cube because it had to power down. Perhaps pumping power into the nacelles without anyway to release it just causes them to get "hot" faster than it would if they are pushing the ship to it's maximum speed.
     
  4. AstroSmurf

    AstroSmurf Vice Admiral Admiral

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    My understanding (from the TNG Technical Manual) is that the warp coils absorb and convert high frequency plasma into subspace field burst. The amount of plasma absorbed directly corresponds to the field frequency it produces. The more they absorb, the higher the frequency. By alternating the amount of plasma and the frequency produced by each coil pair, the nacelles would propell the ship forward, similar to how a maglev system works. To produce higher speeds, the injector system would deliver plasma to the coils at a faster rate.

    So here are my thoughts... Like most engines and machines, I doubt the coils utilize plasma with 100% efficiency when producing a subspace field bubble. The left-over energy/plasma would most likely bleed off as light and heat. (That would explain the blue light we see coming off the nacelles.) Of course, like most engines, the heat would need to be moved away from the coils by a cooling system to keep them from breaking down. However, if the cooling system could not move the heat away from the coils fast enough during higher levels of operation, you would end with a heat build up that would melt or burn-out the coils.

    If the TOS Enterprise was attempting to fight a tractor beam, they could possibly push the warp engines at full power for a brief amount of time before the coils over-heated. The same could be said about the E-D pursuing the Borg. In both instances, the cooling system was not be able to effectively move the excess heat away and they were risking frying the warp coils.

    (I have been drinking so I hope that makes sense. I read it back twice and I think it does but I never know...)
     
  5. Ablative_Oberth

    Ablative_Oberth Lieutenant Commander

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    Actually for a drunk-post that makes a surprising amount of sense.
     
  6. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    ^^ Ditto. Sounded pretty coherent to me too :)

    Just to give some more reference from "The Corbomite Maneuver":
    KIRK: Half speed. Prepare for evasive action.
    SULU: Reducing to warp two, sir.
    SPOCK: Tractor beam, Captain. Something's grabbed us, hard.
    SULU: Engines overloading, sir.
    KIRK: All engines stop.
    SULU: All engines stopped, sir.

    Later they do superheat the engines when they breakaway from the smaller FF ship's tractor.

    And in "The Motion Picture":
    SPOCK (OC): Captain, we have been seized by a tractor beam.
    KIRK (OC) Get someone up here to take the Navigator's station! Engineering, ...full emergency power!
    DECKER: Chief Difalco to the bridge, on the double!
    SCOTT: Captain, if we don't break free in fifteen seconds, she'll burn up.
    SPOCK: We cannot break free, Captain. We only have a fraction of the power necessary.
    KIRK: Engineering! Belay that order, Scotty! Disengage all main drive systems!

    In "Corbomite Maneuver" the moment they were grabbed they started to overheat and later we see them really overheat when they actively start fighting the tractor. I guess the same could be said for "The Motion Picture".

    So thinking about it a bit - if the engines start to react when the ship is grabbed then could it be considered that the warp field that is generated by the engines also interact back to the engines? If the engines only produced a warp field then it shouldn't matter if the ship was being held in place, right?
     
  7. Birdog

    Birdog Commander Red Shirt

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    Kind of like the difference between a car wheel and the screw on an ocean going vessel right?
     
  8. AstroSmurf

    AstroSmurf Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or it could be the tractor beam is inhibiting the warp coil's ability to create a subspace field. The energy would have to go somewhere if it wasn't being expelled in a field burst. Maybe as heat? The plasma could also be rebounding back into the nacelle rather than being absorbed by the coil.
     
  9. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    @birdog - that's a good analogy :)

    @AstroSmurf - maybe. I hadn't considered an inhibiting effect though. Hmm. The only reason I hadn't considered that was usually something like that would have been mentioned (like, "our engines are being dampened" or "power readings zero!")

    Circling back to the wheel analogy, perhaps it might be related to when the Enterprise had to fight hard to pull away from the black star (hole) in "Tomorrow is Yesterday". Under normal space, the warp engine cruises along a flat "ground" but in a deep gravity well, it's going uphill and has to work much harder. Perhaps the uber-strong tractor from V'ger and the FF mothership does something like that (analogy-wise)?
     
  10. AstroSmurf

    AstroSmurf Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ To be honest, warp engine tech was at the mercy of the writers and the story they wanted to tell. Due to that, the technology is inconsistant, especially during TOS. With that in mind, I think any number of interpretations could work to answer the question. So feel free to mix and match until you have something you feel comfortable with. :bolian:

    Oh and one more thing, tractor beams are a directed graviton beam. Combing your theory of "moving up a hill" and my "warp coolant system limitations" and I think you may have something.
     
  11. Saquist

    Saquist Commodore

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    I think it's simply a matter of heat.
    The coils produce and incredible amount of heat and the coils can't radiate that heat while standing still.

    In other words the ships intercoolers work best at low warp fields.
     
  12. Ablative_Oberth

    Ablative_Oberth Lieutenant Commander

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    Via electro-technobabble the excess heat is turned into subspace energy and radiated off. We have thermo-electric conversion processes now in Reality... who knows what Imaginary Physics can come up with! :)
     
  13. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    There's a line from "Mark of Gideon" where Kirk talks about the ship's ability to regenerate power. I wouldn't be surprised if the ship was a Hybrid - twin subspace intercooled dilithium turbocharger 1 cylinder antimatter engine with subspace braking energy regeneration system :D