DS9 "Rapture" 19:30 min mark:

KASIDY: Ben, it's a wall of stone.

SISKO: But what's behind the wall?

(Sisko fires his phaser and the stone dissolves to reveal that they are looking down on the obelisk.)

I've never seen a wall disintegrate like that from phaser fire. It literally disappeared with no explosion, no smoke, no dust, no crumbling rubble, etc.

What setting on a phaser would disintegrate a rock/stone wall like that? Are there other examples of this in the Star Trek universe?

  • If the wall dissolved/disintegrated, then obviously the phaser was on maximum.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:44
  • 7
    The "convenient plot device" setting.
    – user16696
    Jun 17, 2015 at 17:10
  • @Omegacron Doesn't rock explode at maximum? Think about the episodes where they shoot at the ceiling to make a cave in for example. I thought only people or organic type matter disintegrates, but something like rock blows up.
    – JMFB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 17:31
  • @JMFB - The tech manual makes it clear that medium-high settings (10, 11, 12) will vaporise certain materials.
    – Valorum
    Jun 17, 2015 at 18:49
  • @JMFB - If you see something you don't like, flag it. The moderation team can't be everywhere all the time.
    – Valorum
    Jun 17, 2015 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


It was a reasonably high setting. The reason it evaporated the wall is because it was set to 'wide beam' which evidently disperses the wall's material instead of cutting it or exploding it.

You can see the direction a bit more clearly in the original screenplay

SISKO: But what's behind the wall?

He takes out his phaser, adjusts the setting and FIRES it at one of the sandstone walls.


as the WIDE BEAM gently washes away a layer of sandstone TO REVEAL a section of the enormous Obelisk. We see clearly the distinctive markings of one of its faces. There can be no mistake about it -- they've found the lost city of B'hala.

Based on what we see in the episode (and the description in the Star Trek: TNG: Technical Manual, considered a canon source of info about the Trek universe), he appears to have set the phaser to somewhere around levels 10 - 12:

Setting 10: Disruption Effects; discharge energy 125,000 for 1.3 seconds, SEM:NDF ratio 1:9. The damage index is 450; heavy alloy structural materials absorb or rebound energy, 0.55 sec delay before material vaporizes.

Setting 11: Explosive/Disruption Effects; discharge energy 300,000 for 0.78 seconds, SEM:NDF ratio 1:11. The damage index is 670; ultradense alloy structural materials absorb/rebound energy, 0.20 sec delayed reaction before material vaporizes. Light geologic displacement; <10 m3 rock/ ore of 6.0 g/cm3 explosively uncoupled per discharge.

Setting 12: Explosive/Disruption Effects; discharge energy 540,000 for 0.82 seconds, SEM:NDF ratio 1:14. The damage index is 940; ultradense alloy structural materials absorb/rebound energy, 0.1 sec delayed reaction before material vaporizes. Medium geologic displacement; <50 m3 rock/ore of 6.0 g/cm3 explosively uncoupled per discharge.

  • +1 - I don't have access to the technical manual atm, so it's cool to see that info. Although, the terms "geologic displacement" and "explosively uncoupled per discharge" makes me think of rock flying in all directions rather than vaporizing.
    – Omegacron
    Jun 17, 2015 at 18:55
  • @Omegacron - I think it's most likely level 10. I've not seen the episode for a while but I gather it takes a few seconds for the wall to yield.
    – Valorum
    Jun 17, 2015 at 18:56
  • Good answer, very comprehensive and in depth. I like the settings you got from the TNG manual, I'll have to check it out. I also like the screenplay info. I'll have to refer to that site more often. TY
    – JMFB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 18:57
  • @Richard There's a bit of crumbling at the beginning barely visible for maybe a second in the upper right hand corner of the screen. I've included the time marker in my question if you want to check it out. That's shown from a camera stationed behind Sisko. After that the camera angle shifts to inside the room which is void of people and the wall just disintegrates instantly with no gas or crumbling rock.
    – JMFB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 19:01
  • That it specifically says "sandstone" is also important; you can crumble that down to dust by rubbing it with your fingers
    – Izkata
    Jun 18, 2015 at 3:34

TL;DR : The Type II phaser has 16 settings, the highest of which will vaporize most materials.

The Type II phaser carried by Starfleet personnel during the Dominion War era has a total of 16 settings, with each setting being a combination of intensity & spread.

enter image description here

Some example settings are:

  • Level 1 - lowest setting, can stun most humanoids or heat up conductive materials.
  • Level 7 - mid-range setting, can melt soft metals such as noranium carbide alloy.
  • Level 10 - often referred to as the "kill" setting, capable of killing most humanoids.
  • Level 16 - highest setting, will vaporize nearly all organic substances as well as rock.

In the TNG episode "Chain of Command (Part I)", Picard uses his phaser to disintegrate a rock wall: enter image description here

Note: Some materials will shatter when heated up too quickly. Any setting between Level 10 and Level 16 would probably shatter or break rock rather than vaporize it. It's possible that softer variations of rock, like limestone, might vaporize at a lower setting but we never see this on-screen.

  • +1 Good answer. I gave the correct answer to Richards answer though since it was a bit more technical and gave exact info from the original screenplay. Thanks for your answer though it was informative especially the link to phasers. I posted this comment already but for some reason it didn't save. Thanks for doing the research.
    – JMFB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 19:04

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