In Star Trek: TNG Episode "The Drumhead" (4x21) there was a breach in the dilithium chamber that caused a radiation leak that caused them to have isolation doors drop and prevent the crew access to the warp core for something like 36 hours. Since warp cores run on matter anti-matter collisions, and none of the radiation normally produced in such collisions is considered long lasting (see the accepted answer), what kind of radiation is created in this breach? And why is it created?


Antimatter Radiation is seen a few times in Star Trek, but is never really addressed in detail. Memory Alpha simply says it's a byproduct of antimatter. Some other notable examples are:

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    When Spock has to realign the dilithium crystals by hand, flooding the chamber he's in with lethal levels of radiation.

  • Friendship One (VOY 7x21) takes place on a planet suffering from nuclear winter as a result of antimatter explosions.

One possible explanation is that the radiation comes not from the M/AM reaction, but from the dilithium crystals in the reactor.

One of the reasons why dilithium was so valuable before the late 23rd century was because dilithium gradually decrystalizes during use, and there existed no practical means of inducing recrystallization. However, during a time travel mission to 1986, Spock and Scotty developed a method of recrystallizing dilithium through exposure to gamma radiation. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Decrystalizing dilithium resulted in certain byproducts, including illium-629 and, when used in warp cores, trilithium resin. (TNG: "Pen Pals", "Starship Mine")

(from Memory Alpha/Dilithium Crystal) If recrystallization would require bombarding it with gamma radiation, it seems possible to a layperson such a myself that the decrystalization process would involve the release of similar radiation along with the above-mentioned byproducts.

Of course, as NKCampbell pointed out, an easy answer to this question would be that "antimatter radiation" is simply a plot device for dramatic effect (devastatingly effective dramatic effect in STII!)

  • 1
    I'd forgotten about the recrystallizing, and the illium-629 doesn't sound very healthy. I remember from a Voyager episode that trilithium can be used to make some heavy duty explosives. Thanks, this was bugging me all weekend. – Daishozen Jul 24 '17 at 17:32

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