The Uber Anti-matter of Star Trek

The Uber Anti-matter of Star Trek

As probably anyone who as ever heard of Star Trek can tell you, the Enterprise is powered by anti-matter. This article will examine how anti-matter is portrated in Star Trek and if it is realalistic.

Energy Potential:

Just how powerful is the anti-mater? Well in real life the energy that can be released in a matter/anti-matter reaction is governed by Einstein's famous equation: E=mc². According to E=mc² a single kilogram of anti-mater reacting with the same amount of normal matter can release 89,875,517,873,681,764 joules of energy (89,875 terajoules) or 21.5 megatons. Bare in mind that is the theoretical upper limit of energy. So far so good. Unfortunately the anti-matter in Star Trek apears to be somewhat different. In "Obsession"[TOS] we have a dialogue that makes a quanitative statement about the anti-matter in Star Trek:

Kirk : 'Antimatter seems our only possibility.'
Spock : 'An ounce should be sufficient. We can drain it from the ships engines, transport it to the planet's surface in a magnetic vacuum field.'
Kirk : 'Contact medical stores. I want as much haemoplasm as they can spare in the transporter room in fifteen minutes.'
Garrovick : 'Yes sir.'
McCoy : 'I presume you plan to use the haemoplasm to attract the creature?'
Kirk : 'We must get it to the antimatter. It seems attracted to red blood cells, what better bait could we have?'
Spock : 'There is still one problem, captain'
Kirk : 'The blast, yes.'
Spock : 'Exactly. A matter-antimatter blast will rip away half the planet's atmosphere. If our vessel is in orbit and encounters those shock waves...'
Kirk : 'A chance we'll have to take, Mister Spock.'

From that quote we get a good idea of the power of anti-matter, a single ounce of anti-matter can rip half the atmosphere from an earth like planet. Now an ounce is 28.3495231 grams. If the anti-matter in question reacted with an equal amount of matter it would release about 3170.2TJ or 1.2MT for those of you who prefer tonage. That is obviously not enough to rip half an atmosphere from a planet. So how much is needed? Well the Earth's atmosphere has a mass of 5.24xE18; and assuming the planet in question has the same mass as the earth the atmosphere would need to reach 11km/s escape velocity. Now for the calculations:

Kinetic energy = 1/2 m v²

= 1/2 x 2.62E18 x (11,000)²

= 1/2 x 3.1702E26

= 1.5851E26J

Well there you have it, to rip away half an earth like planet's atmosphere would require 1.5851E26 joules of energy. That is 37,884,799,240 megatons of TNT. How does that compare to real anti-matter? Well, 1 ounce (28.3495231 grams) of anti-matter reacting with the same amount of normal matter will only produce 5.103E15J (1.2MT); thatís a big difference. The anti-matter in Star Trek would apear to be 31 billion times more powerful. Thatís 5.59E27J per kilogram of anti-matter. No matter how we try to rationalize the difference nothing can account for such a large difference in power.

Such power for anti-matter would have a profound impact on Canon. The non-canon techmanuals say a photon torpedo has 1.5kg of anti-matter reactant and the same amount of normal matter reactant. With normal anti-matter that would be a maximum of 64MT of yield but with uber-matter:), that would be increased to 2,004,520,452 Gigatons. And the Cardasian Dreadnought Missle from the Voyager Episode "Dreadnought" that had 2000KG of anti-matter would have a yeild of 1.118E31 joules; thats nearly enough to break up a planet into fragments.

Other Oddities:

Mixing Matter and Anti-matter Cold:

In "The Naked Time" after the engines of the Enterprise had been shut down and because of that the Enterprise was falling out of orbit. Scotty then reports that he need half an hour to restart the engines because:

Scotty : 'Captain, you canŐt mix matter and antimatter cold. We'd go up in the biggest explosion since-'
That is a very odd thing to say because normal anti-matter will react with normal matter in the same way no matter what temperature they are at. The implication is that the reaction will be hard or impossable to control with cold anti-matter. I can only think of one possable explaination for this: the dilithium crystals in the warp core only interact with anti-matter when it is at high temperatures.


In "The Doomsday Machine" the Starship Constellation had been damaged by the alien ship and we have the following dialogue:

Washburn : 'We made a complete check check on structural and control damage, sir. As far as we can tell, something crashed through the deflectors and knocked out the generators. Somehow the antimatter in the warp drive pods has been deactivated.'

Kirk : 'Deactivated? Scotty, could some kind of general energy dampening field do that? And would the same type of thing account for the heavy subspace interference?'

Scotty : 'Aye, it all adds up. But what sort of a thing could do all that?'

Presumably "deactivated" refers to the anti-matter transformed so it no longer will react with normal matter. The most like way the could happen is for the charge of anti-matter to be reversed to that it becomes normal matter with its protons becoming positively charged and its electrons becoming negative in charge.