In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Romulan warbirds use artificial controlled singularities as their primary power source.

Is there an in-universe explanation how this actually works and/or how the Romulans generate energy from a singularity?

  • 2
    I voted to close as this question seems to be asking for an answer to a scientific question, rather than a science fiction one. If you re-word it to make it only pertain to the Star Trek universe, I'll withdraw the vote. Jun 24, 2014 at 3:44
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    Quick and simple answer: By commanding "Make it so." If there's no lower rank around you, nod and quickly tap some random parts of the screen in front or behind of you. Chances are high, that'll do the trick.
    – Mario
    Jun 24, 2014 at 6:19
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    I'm disappointed that people are voting to close. I've made it clearer that OP is looking for an in-universe answer...
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2014 at 7:44
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    The reddit post at reddit.com/r/DaystromInstitute/comments/288ays/… does note that a black hole with mass 5450 tons would generate Hawking radiation with about the same power output that a Galaxy class shuttle is supposed to have, so for an answer based on real science we could also speculate that they just harvest the Hawking radiation (though they'd have to constantly feed it more mass to avoid a runaway process where it loses all its mass to Hawking radiation, generating power at a greater and greater rate as its mass decreases).
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 24, 2014 at 11:22
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    @Hypnosifl - Oh, ye of little faith. There's always a canon explanation if you dig dig dig hard enough...
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2014 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


The TNG Writer's Manual (4th Season) makes it clear that Romulan spacecraft generate energy by means of harnessing the x-ray emissions from a captive quantum singularity.

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In the TNG : "Timescape" we see both the exterior and a partial interior of a Romulan engine core. The singularity itself is missing but this still allows us to make some reasonable assumptions based on what remains:

  • The singularity sits in the centre of the engine core, held in place by a series of (black?) magnetic confinement rings. These prevent it from colliding with the walls of the chamber when the ship moves.

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  • The core itself is flooded with some sort of gas which accelerates towards the gravitic attraction of the singularity at high speeds, creating extreme heat and high levels of energetic x-ray emissions.

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  • These x-ray emissions are somehow collected, converted into usable energy and this is then channelled into the ship's warp engines in much the same way that the energy created by a normal Federation Matter/Anti-Matter reaction is used.
  • I think you answer should mention Hawking radiation which tells us that tiny singularities evaporate.
    – flq
    Jun 24, 2014 at 21:48
  • @flq - The question asked for in-universe answers only. I presume the Romulans have found some way to compensate for the loss of mass, possibly by [insert tech mumbo-jumbo here]...
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2014 at 23:09
  • @flq - the x-rays could be from a mini version of the astrophysical jets seen around real black holes-see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrophysical_jet --which are thought to be created by the acceleration of the matter in the "accretion disc" around the black hole (which could explain why they need to pump in a bunch of gas around the artificial black holes). Those jets are thought to be the source of x rays in real black holes, since they are large enough that the Hawking radiation is far too weak to be measured from Earth.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 24, 2014 at 23:10
  • @Richard - is there a canon source for the idea that the gas in the chamber is specifically the cause of the x-rays? The section you quote doesn't say that, it doesn't even say that there is gas in the chamber. Also, in that scene of Geordi looking in the chamber from "Timescape", he was looking at a malfunctioning Romulan engine frozen in time, which had been made "inactive" by an alien life form, not a normally-functioning one, so if your description is based on its appearance in that scene, I don't think that's a good guide to how they are supposed to work.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 24, 2014 at 23:15
  • @Hypnosifl - As I said in the answer, everything below the line is mere speculation. Literally the only thing I've been able to uncover that isn't already on Memory Alpha/LCARS/Star Trek.com is that the power source was x-ray based.
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2014 at 23:18
  1. The first answer is the formation of virtual particles in the space surrounding the singularity (as proposed in the real world by Dr. Stephen Hawking). These virtual particles can be interacted with special fluids or targets to generate ions for thrust or power for Romulan Warbirds.

  2. The second answer is the 'Seeping effect' of energy described in many science fiction universes. To create a singularity, you need certain amount of energy (insane amount of energy if you consider our Universe, but achievable in Star Trek universe), this makes the singularity artificially made one. The formation of a singularity actually opens up a portal through space and time, (as we have seen in Star Trek reboot). The energy (in the form of gravitons seeping in from the other passage must be great enough to be successfully converted to thrust and power for Romulan Warbirds. Like the immense flow of water through a hole in the sink, the energy seeps in and can be harnessed.

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    The question specifically related to in-universe answers, rather than pure speculation.
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2014 at 15:01
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    But the in-universe answers are just pure speculation on the part of the writers.
    – paul
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:29
  • There is a big difference between speculation and in-universe speculation. In the first instance you quite literally make it up on the fly, whereas in-universe provides at the very least an agreed upon framework to work with. I.e. pure nonsense vs world-building nonsense. The latter importantly attempts to 'get inside the authors head'. Dec 18, 2015 at 23:04

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