It has always been my understanding that Start Trek transporters were an elaborate form of replicator. That is, when a person or thing is being transported, only a data stream is really being transmitted (an extremely high density stream, which is why the transport buffers are only able to maintain the pattern for a short time).

So if I am correct in assuming that only data is being transmitted, then we must assume that the destination transporter pad must have enough energy to re-materialize the pattern.

Anyway, I've seen many Star Trek episodes where they use the transporters to transport some form of energy to the ship: dilithium, omega molecules (in one episode of Voyager), or whatever. This means that to re-materialize the energy source (the fuel), it would require an equivalent amount of existing energy to be able to create something with as much potential energy.

I would expect that the only way to get around this would be to shuttle the fuel; not using the transporters.

What is the explanation for this?

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    then we must assume that the destination transporter pad must have enough energy to re-materialize the pattern. don't forget that not all transports are to/from a transporter pad.
    – Xantec
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 19:42
  • 3
    Neither dilithium (a crystal) nor omega molecules (the fact that they're a particle of matter is right in the name) are energy. TNG5x15: "Power Play" has a better example of beaming "energy".
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


From Memory Alpha:

A typical transport sequence began with a coordinate lock, during which the destination was verified and programmed, via the targeting scanners. Obtaining or maintaining a transporter lock enables the transporter operator to know the subject's location, even in motion, allowing the beaming process to start more quickly. This is an essential safety precaution when a starship away team enters a potentially dangerous situation that would require an emergency beam-out.

A transporter lock was usually maintained by tracing the homing signal of a communicator or combadge. When there was a risk that such devices would be lost in the field or are otherwise unavailable, personnel could be implanted with a subcutaneous transponder before an away mission, to still provide a means to maintain a transporter lock. Alternatively, sensors could be used to scan for the biosign or energy signature of a subject, which could then be fed into the transporter's targeting scanner for a lock.

Next, the lifeform or object to be beamed was scanned on the quantum level, using a molecular imaging scanner. At this point, Heisenberg compensators took into account the position and direction of all subatomic particles composing the object or individual and created a map of the physical structure being disassembled, amounting to billions of kiloquads of data.

Simultaneously, the object was broken down into a stream of subatomic particles, also called the matter stream. The matter stream was briefly stored in a pattern buffer while the system compensates for Doppler shift to the destination.

The matter stream was then transmitted to its destination across a subspace domain. As with any type of transmission of energy or radiation, scattering and degradation of the signal must be monitored closely. The annular confinement beam (ACB) acted to maintain the integrity of the information contained in the beam. Finally, the initial process was reversed and the object or individual was reassembled at the destination.

This is basically stating that the bio-matter being transported is converted from regular matter into subatomic particles (possibly into energy itself) and then reconfigured back into it's proper 'pattern' at the new location.

So, the data being transmitted in the stream would only be the pattern after the initial scan, eveything else would be the matter (or energy) from the original bio-matter.

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    Excellent, that's a good explanation! So we can assume that the stream is essentially data and energy.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 19:26
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    From a physics perspective, energy is data. The conversion of energy among its various forms happens in patterns, and it is theoretically possible to trace the "path" that every milliJoule makes through the universe, whether that's in the form of matter or energy waves (remember E=mc^2; matter is energy too). Information is never lost, according to physicists; the only 100% efficient system in the universe is the universe itself. The data is just usually beyond our ability to reconstruct into a form we can understand, such as being wrapped around the event horizon of a black hole.
    – KeithS
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 22:58
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    @KeithS, good comment. Although, I don't know that one can really say that it's theoretically possible for us humans to observe the path of every millijoule since we are inside the system (the universe) and observation would have an effect. Anyway, when I was referring to data, it was in the context of my initial assumption that it was only the discrete information that was being sent using low power data transmission; and that the data would ultimately be used to replicate the person/thing. Anyhow, I totally agree with your main point -- the person/thing is in essence data and energy.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 23:39
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    @peter -- Different universe, but for your amusement.. Extrapolating the entire universe.. from a piece of cake.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 4:37

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