Memory Alpha defines baryons as subatomic particles that "accumulated aboard starships as a result of warp travel", and had to be removed by baryon sweeps- "a procedure lethal to organic material."

However, the site does not explain exactly what it is about these particles that they had to be cleansed from the ship in such a drastic manner- is there any material that does?

  • Being set on fire will kill you. Does this make cooking food "a drastic manner" to remove bacteria or viruses? Aug 31, 2020 at 12:13
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    Baryon, baryoff. Baryon, baryoff. Clean whole ship. Aug 31, 2020 at 12:50
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    I always hope that they do not remove all Baryons from the ship ... :) Aug 31, 2020 at 15:08
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    Presumably by beaming Ensign Barry OFF the ship Nov 7, 2020 at 0:18

3 Answers 3


The script mentions that the array will use "high-frequency plasma field" remove the baryon particles in order to "get rid of all the radiation".

LAFORGE: Yes, sir. We've logged in five years more warp hours than most ships do in ten, so our baryon particle levels are high. I'm a little concerned that when the Remmler Array starts to sweep the ship it'll have to use a stronger beam than normal in order to get rid of all the radiation.

Since we know from DS9: For the Cause and TNG: Suspicions that this kind of radiation is deadly to lifeforms, presumably the goal of the sweep is ultimately to prevent the buildup of harmful radiation throughout the ship.

ODO: Temecklian virus. There've been some reports of an outbreak on Bajor, so we're scanning all ships and cargo before they leave the system.
KASIDY: Ben, please. I promise to flood the entire cargo hold with baryon radiation as a precaution, but I need to go now or I'll lose the entire consignment.

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    It's odd and confusing at times how both the baryon sweep (removing baryon particles) and baryon radiation from the baryon particles themselves appear to be used for cleaning purposes.
    – Mast
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:39
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    @Mast - The 'baryon sweep' doesn't use baryons. It's neutralising them with some sort of beam that also happens to be deadly.
    – Valorum
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:40
  • Yes, I know that. But Kasidy is flooding the cargo with baryon radiation. Where did that come from if not from baryons?
    – Mast
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:41
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    You can channel the radiation from the warp engine (which contains baryons) into a specific room in the ship. That doesn't mean the particles will be present in the room, just the radiation
    – Valorum
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:42
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    @Mast - "DEVOR: The baryon sweep uses a high-frequency plasma field. Your phaser won't work."
    – Valorum
    Aug 31, 2020 at 9:45

I would not really call it a drastic measure intense UV light will sterilize an object but if the light is intense enough could easily kill a person.

As for the question I do not believe there is anything in canon (IIRC canon is the shows and movies) that being said the way I interpret it is baryons on a warp ship are akin to barnacles on a water going vessel enough barnacles can compromise a hull I assume enough baryon particles somehow interfere with warp fields.

Memory Alpha says "to keep harmful radiation from building up" which could also mean enough baryon particles could harm people

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    Can you support your statement that UV "could easily kill a person"? Aug 31, 2020 at 9:35
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    @OrganicMarble - Very High Intensity UVC will kill someone almost instantly.
    – Valorum
    Aug 31, 2020 at 10:16
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    @Valorum sez who? Aug 31, 2020 at 10:16
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    @FreeMan pretty sure that's not what's being discussed here. Aug 31, 2020 at 11:18
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    UVC isn't even particularly carcinogenic, since it's absorbed mostly by the outer layers of cells that have lost their nuclei, UVB is the main skin cancer risk (UVC can still cause permanent eye damage, and surface skin burns). The only way UV radiation's killing someone "almost instantly" is through thermal effects which have nothing to do with the particular properties of UV. Aug 31, 2020 at 13:29

There is actually a very similar thing that occurs with real world nuclear reactors called the "Wigner Effect" and led to the devastating windscale fire before it was fully understood.

What happens is over time stray neutron radiation knocks atoms out of alignment so they are not quite in the exact spot that is perfect for them in their crystal lattice. It was known the neutrons were not strong enough to cause neutron activation to make things radioactive, they were not even strong enough to break atomic bonds so were considered relatively harmless as far as nuclear reactor dangers go. A crystal is very orderly because everything is in its lowest energy state, knocking things out of place adds energy to the system that can build up and up over time until something triggers its release which is what caused the fire when inert non radioactive chunks of graphite suddenly started to self heat. It is a pure physical effect of slight atom misalignment in an otherwise perfectly stable substance and mostly undetectable.

So how do we get rid of it? We anneal things at 250°C for a bit and the energy harmlessly dissipates. The slow build up of Wigner energy is harmless as long as it doesn't go on too long, but the heating to 250° would most certainly be deadly to any life forms that decided to stick around while it is annealed.

The baryon sweep seemed to pretty much mirror this sort of maintenance that needs to happen to anything that sits around a nuclear reactor too long.

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    This seems very opinion-based. Can you offer any firm evidence that this is what the writers had in mind?
    – Valorum
    Jul 16, 2021 at 18:01
  • It sounds like there are some engineering sources to support this out-of- universe analogy. You should edit citations for these sources into your answer.
    – Spencer
    Jul 16, 2021 at 22:48

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