ONBOARD ANTIMATTER GENERATION

As mentioned, there exists in the Frontier class the ability to generate relatively small amounts of antimatter during potential emergency situations. The process is by all accounts incredibly power- and matter-intensive, and may not be advantageous under all operational conditions. As with the Bussard ramscoop, however, the antimatter generator may provide critical fuel supplies when they are needed most.

The antimatter generator resides on Deck 11, surrounded by other elements of the WPS. It consists of two key assemblies, the matter inlet/conditioner (MI/C), and the quantum charge reversal device (QCRD). The entire generator measures some 7.6 x 13.7 meters, and masses 1400 metric tonnes. It is one of the heaviest components, second only to the warp field coils.

The MI/C utilizes conventional tritanium and polyduranide in its construction, as it handles only cryogenic deuterium and similar fuels. The QCRD, on the other hand, employs alternating layers of superdense, forced-matrix cobalt-yttrium-polyduranide and 854 kalinite-argium. This is necessary to produce the power amplification required to hold collections of subatomic particles, reverse their charge, and collect the reversed matter for storage in the nearby antimatter pods.

The technology that has given rise to the QCRD is similar to that of the transporter, SIF, IDF, and other devices that manipulate matter on the quantum level. The conversion process sees the inlet of normal matter, stretched out into thin rivulets no more than 0.000003 cm across. The rivulets are pressure-fed into the QCRD under magnetic suspension, where groups of them are chilled to within 0.001 degree of absolute zero, and exposed to a short-period stasis field to further limit molecular vibration. As the stasis field decays, focused subspace fields drive deep within the subatomic structure to flip the charges and spins of the “frozen” protons, neutrons, and electrons. The flipped matter, now antimatter, is magnetically removed for storage. The system can normally process 0.08 mž/hr.

It can be said that the total potential energy contained in a given quantity of deuterium can drive a starship for some considerable distance. Applying this energy at sublight speeds will be next to useless in a desperate scenario. Interstellar flight at warp speeds requires tens of thousands of times greater velocities than those afforded by impulse power, and so antimatter generation will sometimes be necessary. One disadvantage imposed by the process is that it requires ten units of deuterium to power the generator, and the generator will produce only one unit of antimatter. Put another way, the law of conservation of energy dictates that the power required for this process will exceed the usable energy ultimately derived from the resulting antimatter fuel. However, this may provide a needed survival margin to reach a starbase or tanker rendezvous.  

BUSSARD RAMSCOOP FUEL REPLENISHMENT

In the event a deuterium tanker cannot reach a Frontier class starship, the capability exists to pull low-grade matter from the interstellar medium through a series of specialized high-energy magnetic coils known collectively as a Bussard ramscoop. Named for the twentieth-century physicist and mathematician Robert W. Bussard, the ramscoop emanates directional ionizing radiation and a shaped magnetic field to attract and compress the tenuous gas found within the galaxy. From this gas, which possesses an average density of one atom per cubic centimeter, may be distilled small amounts of deuterium for contingency replenishment of the matter supply. At high relativistic speeds, this gas accumulation can be appreciable, though the technique is not recommended for long periods for time-dilation reasons. At warp velocities, however, extended emergency supplies can be gathered. While matching supplies of antimatter cannot be recovered from space in this manner, minute amounts of antimatter can be generated by an onboard quantum charge reversal device.

It is an accepted fact that a starship in distress will continue to deplete its energy supplies; however, systems such as this have been included to afford at least a small additional chance at survival. A Bussard collector can be found at the forward end of each warp engine nacelle. It consists of three main assemblies, an ionizing beam emitter (IBE), magnetic field generator/collector (MFG/C), and continuous cycle fractionator (CCF). The curved nacelle endcap, the largest single cast structure of the spacecraft, is formed from reinforced polyduranide and is transparent to a narrow range of ionizing energies produced by the emitter.

It is the function of the emitter to impart a charge to neutral particles in space for collection by the magnetic field. At warp velocities, the ionizing energies are transitioned into subspace frequencies so that the beam components can project out ahead of the starship, decay to their normal states, and produce the desired effect.

Behind and supporting the endcap is the MFC/G, a compact set of six coils designed to cast a magnetic net ahead of the starship and pull in the charged particles toward the intake grills. These coils are constructed from cobalt-lanthanide-boronite and obtain their power from either the power transfer conduits directly, or the general electro plasma system. At sublight velocities, the coils sweep forward normally. At warp velocities, however, the coil operation is reversed to slow down the incoming matter. This system works in close connection with the main navigational deflector. In normal operation, of course, the job of the deflector is to prevent any interstellar material from contacting the ship. Small field holes are manipulated by the deflector and MFG/C to permit usable amounts of rarified gas through. Tucked within the MFG/C is the CCF, which continuously separates the incoming gas into different grades of matter considered burnable within the warp engine. The separated gases are compressed, and pressure-fed to holding tanks within the Battle Section.

WARP PROPULSION SYSTEM FUEL SUPPLY

The fuel supply for the warp propulsion system (WPS) is contained within the primary deuterium tank (PDT) in the Battle Section. The PDT, which also feeds the IPS (impulse propulsion system), is normally loaded with slush deuterium at a temperature of -259°C, or 13.8K. The PDT is constructed of forced-matrix 2378 cortanium and stainless steel, with foamed vac-whisker silicon-copper-duranite insulation laid down in alternating parallel/biased layers and gamma-welded.

Penetrations for supply vessels, vent lines, and sensors are made by standard precision phaser cutters. There are a total of four main fuel feed manifolds from the PDT to the matter reactant injector, eight cross-feed conduits to the Saucer Module auxiliary tanks, and four feeds to the main impulse engine.

The total internal volume, which is compartmentalized against losses due to structural damage, is 63,200 mž, though the normal total deuterium load is 62,500 mž. As with the volume of antimatter loaded for a typical multimission segment, a full load of deuterium is rated to last approximately three years.

As with any constructed tank, a certain percentage of deuterium molecules is expected to migrate through the tank walls over time. The PDT leak rate has been measured at <.00002 kg/day. Proportionate values hold for all auxiliary tanks as well.

Slush deuterium is created by standard electro-centrifugal fractioning of a variety of materials, including seawater, outer planet satellite snows and ices, and cometary nuclei, and chilling down the fractionated liquid. Each will result in different proportions of deuterium and tailings, but can be handled by the same Starfleet hardware. Deuterium tanker craft are far more numerous than their antimatter counterparts, and can provide emergency reactants on a few days' notice. Two deuterium loading ports are located along the structural spine of the Battle Section, aft of the tail of the tank. The loading port interface contains structural connections for firm docking within a starbase or free-floating maintenance dock, as well as pressure relief, purge inlet and outlet fittings, and optical data network hardlines to the starbase computers. 

ANTIMATTER STORAGE AND TRANSFER

Since its confirmed existence in the 1930s, the concept of a form of matter with the same mass but reversed charge and spin has intrigued scientists and engineers as a means to produce unprecedented amounts of energy, and to apply that energy to drive large space vehicles.

Cosmological theory maintains that all constituent parts of the universe were created in pairs; that is, one particle of matter and one particle of antimatter. Why there seems to be a propensity toward matter in our galactic neighborhood is, to this day, a topic of lively discussion. All of the basic antiparticles have been synthesized, however, and are available for continued experimental and operational use.

When, for example, an electron and an antielectron (or positron) are in close proximity, they mutually annihilate, producing energetic gamma rays. Other particle-antiparticle pairs annihilate into different combinations of subatomic particles and energy. Of particular interest to spacecraft engineers were the theoretical results presented by deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, and its antimatter equivalent. The problems encountered along the way to achieving a working M/A engine, however, were as daunting as the possible rewards were glorious. Antimatter, from the time of its creation, could neither be contained by nor touch any matter. Numerous schemes were proposed to contain antihydrogen by magnetic fields. This continues to be the accepted method. Appreciable amounts of antihydrogen, in the form of liquid or, better yet, slush, posed significant risks should any portion of the magnetic containment fail. Within the last fifty years, reliable superconducting field sustainers and other measures have afforded a greater degree of safety aboard operational Starfleet vessels.

As used aboard the USS Vanguard, antimatter is first generated at major Starfleet fueling facilities by combined solar-fusion charge reversal devices, which process proton and neutron beams into antideuterons, and are joined by a positron beam accelerator to produce antihydrogen (specifically antideuterium). Even with the added solar dynamo input, there is a net energy loss of 24% using this process, but this loss is deemed acceptable by Starfleet to conduct distant interstellar operations.

The antimatter is kept contained by magnetic conduits and compartmentalized tankage while aboard the fueling facility. Early starships were also constructed with compartmentalized tankage in place, though this method proved less desirable from a safety standpoint in a ship subjected to high stresses. During normal refueling, antimatter is passed through the loading port, a 1.75 meter-wide circular probe-and-drogue device equipped with twelve physical hard-dock latches and magnetic irises. Surrounding the antimatter loading port on Deck 42 are thirty storage pods, each measuring 4 x 8 meters and constructed of polyduranium, with an inner magnetic field layer of ferric quonium. Each pod contains a maximum volume of 100 mž of antimatter, giving a 30-pod total starship supply of 3000 mž, enough for a normal mission period of three years. Each is connected by shielded conduits to a series of distribution manifolds, flow controllers, and electro plasma system (EPS) power feed inputs. In rapid refueling conditions, reserved for emergency situations, the entire antimatter storage pod assembly (ASPA) can be drawn down on jackscrews and replaced in less than one hour.

In the event of loss of magnetic containment, this very same assembly can be ejected by microfusion initiators at a velocity of 40 m/sec, pushing it clear of the ship before the fields decay and the antimatter has a chance to react with the pod walls. While small groups of pods can be replaced under normal conditions, the magnetic pump transfer method is preferred.

Antimatter, even contained within storage pods, cannot be moved by transporter without extensive modifications to the pattern buffer, transfer conduits, and transporter emitters for safety reasons due to the highly volatile nature of antimatter. (Specific exceptions apply for small quantities of antimatter stored in approved magnetic containment devices, normally used for specialized engineering and scientific applications.)

Refueling while in interstellar space is possible through the use of Starfleet tanker craft. Tanker transfers run considerable risks, not so much from hardware problems but because refined antimatter is a valuable commodity, and vulnerable to Threat force capture or destruction while in transit. Starfleet cruiser escorts are standard procedure for all tanker movements.  

THE ROLE OF DILITHIUM

The key element in the efficient use of M/A reactions is the dilithium crystal. This is the only material known to Federation science to be nonreactive with antimatter when subjected to a high-frequency electromagnetic (EM) field in the megawatt range, rendering it porous to antihydrogen. Dilithium permits the antihydrogen to pass directly through its crystalline structure without actually touching it, owing to the field dynamo effect created in the added iron atoms. The longer form of the crystal name is the forced-matrix formula 2<5>6 dilithium 2<:>1 diallosilicate 1:9:1 heptoferranide. This highly complex atomic structure is based on simpler forms discovered in naturally occurring geological layers of certain planetary systems. It was for many years deemed irreproducible by known or predicted vapor-deposition methods, until breakthroughs in nuclear epitaxy and antieutectics allowed the formation of pure, synthesized dilithium for starship and conventional powerplant use, through theta-matrix compositing techniques utilizing gamma radiation bombardment.