Dilithium in starships

We all know that for a starships warp drive to operate correctly the use of an element called dilithium is used to regulate the reaction. I am not even worrying about Romulan technology with the singularity to power their warp systems. I will work on Romulan warp drive some other time. Dilithium is from my understanding at least in the original series something that is breakable and wears out eventually. The actual function is that charged dilithium prevents the anti-matter from interacting with the crystal lactic and allows the controlled mixing of the matter and anti-matter (deuterium and anti-deuterium) in safety. More can be found at http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Dilithium and over at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilithium_(Star_Trek) and http://memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/Dilithium where there are better descriptions to this for further reading.

While the 24th century has the technology to re-crystalize dilithium technology when it starts to break down or at lease extend its life. While the Original Series era and before do not have that luxury except for the use of radiation from a nuclear aircraft carrier during a time travel jaunt to the twentieth century. Though they do know of ways, but they are not practical to use, as the aforementioned that we saw one in the Voyage Home by injecting radiation into the dilithium crystal chamber and recrystallizing the crystals, I guess alternative methods that produce the same effect could be found that are not with medical risks to the crew is the protons are not safely collected.

It is an easy assumption to believe the state of the 24th century that if the Federation has this technology, that so do all the other major powers we know of. It is likely that they have either obtained the tech by their own research or by espionage methods or through a captured or crashed ship, any way you write it they got it. yet some of the minor species may not have achieve this technology. This technology could easily be considered a tactical advantage over a species whom does not have the tech. this would allow the need for smaller amounts of resources that are needed to maintain a fleet od ships during a prolonged struggle.

We know that too much dilithium in a planet can cause geological instabilities and could cause a planet to well explode violently after going through a sever geological magma and earthquake period. We saw it in an episode of the Next Generation second season I think it was the exact name is lost to me. Data communicates with a small alien girl that is on the planet that is experiencing this even. Eventually the dilithium crystals could cause the planet to break apart into the likes of the asteroid belt. These asteroids would have dilithium deposits under the surface that could be mines with spacesuits and pressure domes.

For game play (here is what I suggest) Some of what theses next paragraphs is what I know, what I suspect and just guess work at it. If you implement this into your game change it to suit your group, or this is me blowing hot air on a subject that I was thinking about.

We have seen the cut shape of the dilithium in the Original Series and in the Nest
Generation a few times. In the movies the dilithium is seen in a Klingon Bird of Prey, as an organic growth and mind on the Klingon prison planet as a gray rock chunks laser cut from the wall. All of these may be right as they have all been seen on screen. Any way you want it, this your dilithium crystals.

I have come to understand that the dilithium crystals have a shelf life or shelf life after they start being used… or maybe being mined, I want to think that the dilithium starts breaking down the moment that it is used as a catalyst for the matter/anti-matter reaction. Once the dilithium has been mined it is cut into specific shapes that allow the matter and anti-matter to pass through the crystals and meter the reaction into a specific frequency that the ships systems can use for power. (A hexagon shape for Federation ships other shapes could be different for other species vessels). Using an odd shaped crystal’s causes power regulation problems with Federation ships but then again, a good Engineer should be able to work with them to get them to work well. We saw this in the Original Series when the diamond shape cut dilithium was replaced with shards to power the Enterprise. Though we see the dilithium in the first season of the Next Generation as a slightly melted pile of pink ice cream sitting one the dilithium housing tray when the crew are in the middle of aligning the dilithium. With this aligning the dilithium is placed in the strategic position to operate at top efficacy.

I can remember there being comments about dilithium fracturing have been mentioned in TOS, TNG, and Voyager and this could be a part of decrystallization and stress put on the ship as it over works the engines. I like to think of dilithium as a piece of frozen water which can both be shattered and can melt do to heat or environmental changes. Dilithium is a sturdy crystal nevertheless has a vulnerable side as well.

Do to the shelf life the 22nd and 23rd centuries the dilithium had to be replaced with new or undamaged dilithium on a regular basis. This brings together all sorts of adventures and ideas. Such as a crew can mine a vein of dilithium if they can not obtain their own from a base or trading out post. Or if they are monetarily inclined the dilithium goes for ten bars of Gold Pressed Latium (two million Federation credits) for a starship useable size chunk of unrefined dilithium. Refined three times that much.

Unrefined dilithium allows the engines to produce power nonetheless not as well as refined dilithium. I would estimate that the unrefined dilithium (that would be a crystal that has not been cut) would produce 60 to 75 percent of the usual power that a refined dilithium would and this power generated would be like a sour milk to the usual power generated. This would still give a starship power however would hamper it in a fight with another vessel. Yet it would allow a vessel to return to somewhere it could get the proper dilithium crystal and have it installed with all the repairs, maintenance and upgrades that a ship should have. So, all challenges that apply to the engines and power system would have a challenge penalty that would be an addition of one if the member of the crew was not a ware of the sour power. Do to inconsistencies this is redundant for anything.

Sense a constitution class has three years of consumables carried onboard so it is reasonable to assume that they carry spare dilithium around with them. For my notes generated for Spacedock notes I gave the ship nine crystals (as we have seen such in the Original Series eight crystals in storage kept energized), so it figures that the crystals have a life of 121 days rounding up to 125 days giving the nine crystals a life of three point eight years. After three years the stockpile of crystals would have to be replaced. Unrefined dilithium has half that life as it is not cut to an optimal shape and size. This could be wrong as the constitution class may have multiple warp cores providing fractional power as seen in here and there and the new movies though this makes the engines a little more Klingon than the single engine that we have come to see in the Federation designs.

Thus, translates into 2,160,000 rounds of play. It works best if you use the hours, 3000 hours per crystal. For every hour the warp core is active the dilithium looses one hour of life. All speeds up to sustainable use only one hour, while any emergency speed uses three hours of life. Extreme stress such as time travel doubles the extreme stress use of life on the crystals. As time travel uses emergency speeds and stress in the crystals so ten hours are taken from the crystal.

Regardless of the length of the battle the cost on the crystals is two additional hours of life to the usual and a hit to the shields can cost one hour of life. (I choose this as a prolonged battle could easily eat the life of a crystal to nothing and leave a ship stranded in the middle of a battle if the crystal is old). During a war the need for replacement dilithium becomes a key component to the fleet and the sources that need the dilithium need to be protected by a squadron or fleet action.

If the ship has stopped using the dilithium crystals the crystals remain inert and retain what life, they have at the last time they were used. So, if a crystal has a third of its life left when the ship is let’s say mothballed and then fifty years that crystal will still have two thirds of its life left when the crystal is installed into another ship out of need. Then the ship can limp home or if the dilithium is cut different to the species usual method it looks different.

Artificial dilithium would be something that would be half as efficient than that of real dilithium. Sense I have not seen much about an artificial dilithium I have nothing to work with in generating a set up for artificial dilithium other than an unscrupulous trader could try to pass it off as real dilithium.

This is what I came up with and it basically breaks down into dilithium is another fuel. I have worked up deuterium fuel usage and such for all ships that we have instituted into the game play for ships in the Enterprise, Voyager and Battlestar Galactica type series. Enjoy.