Dilithium crystal

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  • Rare mineral, found chiefly in planetary bodies; only rarely in asteroids (TNG Novel: The Buried Age; TNG: "Pen Pals")
  • Forced-matrix formula of 2<5>6 dilithium 2<:>1 diallosilicate 1:9:1 heptoferranide (Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
  • First discovered by Humans on Amalthea following post-war exploration of the solar system late-21st century (Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual)
    • 2-3% of ferroholmquistite on Earth later discovered to have actually been dilithium crystals; unidentified due to the need of subspace field emissions to distinguish fourth-dimensional properties of crystal matrix (TOS Novel: Prime Directive)
  • Two properties make it key to most common M/AM-based warp drive technologies
    • First, when subjected to an electromagnetic field, dilithium crystals become porous to high-intensity hydrogen and antihydrogen streams; internal field dynamo effect due to added iron atoms allow matter and antimatter streams to pass through dilithium without contacting the crystal itself, much as a natural tokamak (Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
    • Second, fourth-dimensional crystalline structure provides for high facility of converting one form of energy into another, akin to piezoelectric effect in various traditional crystals (ENT Novel: Kobayashi Maru; TNG: "Pen Pals")
      • As a result, gamma radiation released by the M/AM reaction is focused into remaining hydrogen reactant products from the matter stream, transmuting and energizing it to produce a high-power stream of electroplasma which can be tapped for energy or directly channeled into subspace coils for the generation of subspace fields (Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
        • In many drives, during sublight maneuvers or low warp speeds utilize a higher intermix ratio as the resulting energized deuterium within the plasma stream is more easily tapped for power by other devices, though the "contamination" does interfere with subspace field generation; at higher warp speeds, intermix ratios closer to 1:1 are used to allow the warp drive to get the full benefit of the resulting plasma (Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
          • In Federation vessels, warp reactors function at a 25:1 ratio when idle, increased to 10:1 at warp 1, scaling up to 1:1 at warp 8 and above (TNG: "Coming of Age", "Skin of Evil")
        • Necessary intermix ratios can also be impacted by local subspace conditions (SCE Short Story: "Interphase Book 2")
          • Possibly something to do with virtual particle generation or leakage of particles from subspace into normal space, including intermix chamber?
        • Differing orientations of the crystal or intermix timing formulas allow for differing balances of the exotic particles in the resulting reactants; this can be potentially exploited to manipulate the fine properties of a generated warp field, but requires caution so as to not damage the dilithium or the reactor (TOS: "The Naked Time"; TNG: "Booby Trap", "Galaxy's Child")
      • For another example, input heat can be released as mechanical energy, potentially to devastating effect (TNG: "Pen Pals")
      • This property can also be exploited to allow dilithium to directly power systems for a time itself, by transmuting an unusable form of energy into a more usable one (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Mudd's Women", "The Alternative Factor", "Elaan of Troyius")
        • More commonly exploited during the 23rd century, largely phased out by the 24th
      • Though itself stable, this property means that large quantities of dilithium crystals can, under the proper conditions, enhance the strength of explosions or eruptions of energy in unpredictable and devastating ways (ENT Novel: Kobayashi Maru; TNG: "Pen Pals"; SCE Short Story: "The Riddled Post")
  • Decrystalizes over time, more rapidly under active use, decomposing into various byproducts including illium-629 and trilithium (TNG: "Pen Pals", "Starship Mine"; DS9 Novel: Gamma: Original Sin)
    • Recrystalization process discovered 2285 by Captain Spock; theta-matrix compositing utilizing gamma radiation bombardment to rebuild the internal lattice structure as needed, prolongling life of a given crystal immensely (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; TNG: "Relics"; Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
      • General technique refined to the point of allowing for dilithium crystal synthesis by late-24th century (TNG Novel: A Time to Love)
        • Recrystallization and synthesis techniques not shared with other powers (TNG Novel: A Time to Love)