I read this article over on cracked.com, which says that the transporters convert the object/person into energy and then teleport that. As I recall though, it actually took that matter and "dissolved" it, then moved that matter through physical space and "reassembled" it. Can anyone verify this? (It also helps prevent all of the ethical/physical limitations that were proposed in the article.)

  • 1
    Mass is another form of energy.. so, it shouldn't be problem..
    – user931
    Mar 21, 2012 at 10:00

4 Answers 4


I'm going to my source for this, one I've cited here before, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers' Technical Manual, Fourth Season Edition. This is one of the Writers' Guides. In other words, it tells the writers what they can and cannot do on screen.

(This information is also from recent answers, so for more related details, see this answer and this one as well.)

On page 28, under The Transporter - Once and for All:

... The stream of molecules read by the pads is sent to the Pattern Buffer, a large cylindrical tank surrounded by superconducting electromagnetic coils. It is here that the object to be transported is stored momentarily before actual beaming away from the ship (or even within the ship). It is the Pattern Buffer and its associated subsystems that have been improved the most in the last half-century. While the actual molecules of an object are held in a spinning magnetic suspension (eight minutes before degradation), the construction sequence of the object can be read, recorded in computer memory (in some cases), and reproduced. There are limits to the complexity of the object, however, and this is where the potential "miracle" machine still eludes.

The Transporter cannot produce working duplicate copies of living tissue or organ systems.

The reason for this is that routine transport involves handling the incredibly vast amount of information required to "disassemble" and "reassemble" a human being or other life form. To transport something, the system must scan, process, and transmit this pattern information. This is analogous to a television, which serves as a conduit to the vast amount of visual information in a normal television transmission.

And then, from the same section, on page 29:

From the Pattern Buffer, the molecular stream and the coded instructions pass through a number of subsystems before reaching the emitter. These include the Subspace, Doppler, and Heisenberg Compensators. Each works to insure that the matter stream is being transmitted or received is in the correct phase, frequency, and so on. (sic)

So the object or living being is disassembled, molecule by molecule, converted to a stream that is temporarily stored in the pattern buffer, then reassembled at the destination. The stream contains both matter and data used for reassembly.

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    So, where does the extra matter for the dual Kirks, dual Rikers, and dual Space Spaniels come from? The Transporter system must obviously be able to draw on an extra source of matter in order to allow something like that to happen.
    – John Bode
    Jan 17, 2013 at 21:56
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    It comes from unobtanium. Actually, @JohnBode, that would make a good question - you can even reference this question if you want. According to the tech manual, duplicates would not be possible.
    – Tango
    Jan 17, 2013 at 23:14
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    Unfortunately, I already know the answer; it works however the writers need it to work that week, and trying to retcon an internally consistent explanation of how it should work is doomed to failure.
    – John Bode
    Jan 18, 2013 at 15:32
  • @JohnBode Pretty much that, yes. For example, in addition to the good/bad Kirks, we have the example of William T. Riker and W. Thomas Riker, exact duplicates in every detail, one of whom was the result of his pattern being reflected back to the surface of the planet he was helping to explore, the other returned safely to his ship. Knowing this happened, it should be something that could be duplicated by experimentation. If anyone ever tries, we never hear about! Apr 15, 2013 at 0:12

According to Memory Alpha:

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.

So it appears the transporter does use the same matter to reassemble the person/thing as it was made of to begin with, though which particle is which is impossible to track (according to modern physics, at least). This actually sheds some light on the transporter-vs-replicator question too.

  • The simplest explanation is that the transporter creates a "wormhole" of sorts through subspace, with one end on the transporter pad and the other end at the destination (via the pattern buffer I suppose?). Not just one wormhole, but a wormhole for every particle in your body must be specified by the computer. Nothing is destroyed or created, or converted from matter to energy and back again.
    – RobertF
    Nov 18, 2013 at 3:59

In one episode (I am unable to recall the episode title), Captain Kirk referred to the Transporter as an energy/ matter scrambler. As has been stated in the show, the pattern of matter atoms is converted to a pattern of energy atoms, transferred to the desired destination, then the process is reversed, the atom energy pattern is returned to its original atom matter pattern, functioning as it originally did.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE! This answer does not seem to add anything additional to the existing and accepted answer. To make this answer stand out, try to find those quotes you mention and source them here.
    – Skooba
    Aug 18, 2016 at 17:55
  • It was the Savage Curtain ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies/… Sep 22, 2021 at 1:38

Energy, obviously. The instruction to the transporter chief is always 'Energize', not 'Matterize'.

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