Characteristics and history
Dilithium, in its most stable form, has an atomic mass of 315, and was discovered by Humans for the first time on Amalthea, the fifth moon of planet Jupiter, in the year 2049. This crystalline element is part of the trans-uranic series of heavy elements. (ST reference: Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual)
- Federation: The First 150 Years states that humans first discovered dilithium from an excavation site at Earth's South Pole in the 21st century, evidently having come to Earth via meteorite.
Dilithium was named as a extrapolation of another element's name, lithium. Dilithium was of note to Federation science because of qualities as a subspace amplifier, creating transtator current when exposed to subspace fields. It was the only known material which could regulate matter/antimatter reactions, which was why it is used by most species in their warp drives. Different compositions and origins produced slightly different appearances in the crystals, ranging in shape and color. (TOS novel: Prime Directive)
Originally, the lifespan of dilithium was limited until methods were discovered in recrystallizing fractured crystals. This caused a drop in the value of dilithium, which was a precious element around 2275. (TOS novel: Preserver)
Zefram Cochrane studied dilithium but kept his knowledge of it secret until he could find a way to make money off of it. Later people thought that Cochrane avoided discussing it to keep the information out of the hands of dictators of the era. (ST reference: Federation: The First 150 Years)
After the initial discovery of dilithium, it was discovered that 2-3% of the quartz on Earth was actually dilithium. This was previously undiscovered because it is difficult to discover the mineral's distinguishing feature -- its extension into the fourth dimension -- through conventional testing. This discovery prompted a gold rush, as many museums dug through their collections and found samples of dilithium. (TOS novel: Prime Directive)
- Federation: The First 150 Years states that dilithium is not native to Earth.
Having a large supply of dilithium almost instantly promoted a planet into prominence in interplanetary politics, as other species seek trade. Some planets known for their dilithium deposits include Coridan III, Troyius, and Avaton II. (TOS video game: Starfleet Academy: Strategic Command)
At some point in the 22nd century, the Klingon Empire mined the innermost planet of the Arhennius system to obtain its dilithium; the Federation never noticed the dilithium on its long range scans as it was under several kilometers of rock. (Star Trek novel: Engines of Destiny)
In 2254, Starfleet engineers constructing Project Pharos on the Pharos siteworld in the Marrat system discovered huge deposits of dilithium of such purity that, had it been mined, it would not have required refining. Because Marrat was an open system, Starfleet, opted to keep the discovery a secret, concerned it could provoke a gold rush, or war. Unfortunately, Klingon Commander Kaaj did find out about the discovery and attacked Pharos in response. When the USS Enterprise was sent to investigate why communications had been lost with Pharos, Kaaj attacked the starship. To solve the dilemma, Captain Christopher Pike had the Enterprise fire on Pharos, igniting the entire planet in a chain reaction, and eliminating the source of conflict. (EV comic: "The Fires of Pharos")
Romulan scientist Tavorak was reputed to have created a virus that ate dilithium and attempted to sell his creation to the highest bidder making him a wanted criminal. (TNG comics: "A Matter of Conscience...", "The Truth Elusive")
The planet Naia VII was rich in dilithium, among other valuable materials. A Starfleet Corps of Engineers mining operation there in 2368 excavated these, which were vital for Starfleet to rebuild its strength following the Battle of Wolf 359. (TNG - Assimilation² comic: "Issue 2")
During the 23rd century, the crystals often deteriorated rapidly during adverse situations, so starships often kept large supplies of them on board. (TOS video game: Starfleet Academy: Strategic Command)
Also in the 23rd century, it was known that travelling at high warp factors could cause stress fractures in the dilithium crystals mounted in a warp engine. Any affected crystals needed to be replaced and recalibrated. (TOS - Rihannsu novel: The Empty Chair)
During a trip back to the 20th century to retrieve two humpback whales, the dilithium crystals of the Klingon ship Kirk and his crew were using began to wear out. Since fission based nuclear reactors was still in use, Captain Spock determined that it might have been possible to obtain high energy photons from such a reactor, and bombard the crystals with them - thus causing dilithium to recrystallize. After obtaining such photons from the United States aircraft carrier Enterprise, Spock and Engineer Montgomery Scott were able to successfully recrystallize dilithium. (TOS movie: The Voyage Home)
By the 24th century, the process of recrystallizing dilithium had been refined to the point that it had become routine on board Federation vessels. Using a theta-matrix compositor, dilithium could be recrystallized inside the warp reaction chamber. (TNG episodes: "Family", "Skin of Evil")
|This section is written
from the Real World
point of view.
|warp drive technology|
|types of warp engines||coleopteric warp drive • dicyclic warp engine • transwarp drive • warp sled • warp drive|
|warp components||warp core • matter injector • antimatter injector • power transfer conduit • warp coil • bussard collector • coolant manifold • plasma manifold • phase discriminator • dilithium crystal • dilithium articulation frame|
Dilithium appeared as an element on the table of elements barely legible on screen in the TNG episode: "Rascals", with the chemical symbol Dt. The Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual lists it as symbol Dl.
In real-life science, element 119 has yet to be discovered. A placeholder name based on its number, "ununennium", has been suggested to document the possible existence of this substance. Some models of theoretical science have stated that heavy elements on this scale may be impossible to synthesize or reproduce, and cannot exist in nature. Subspace science mentioned in Star Trek may account for the contradiction of this being a natural resource on other worlds, as well as any relation to lithium, which is another aspect of this fictional material that has not been borne out in real-life study. The formation of the name has the prefix di- preceding lithium, indicating some sort of twofold increase of the basic lithium. A similar nomenclature is used for trilithium and decalithium.
- ST reference: Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual
- TNG episodes: "Family", "Skin of Evil", "Rascals"
- TOS novel: Prime Directive
- ST - Mirror Universe Trilogy novel: Preserver
- TOS novelization: Mudd's Angels
- TAS - Log Four novelization: The Time Trap
- TOS video game: Starfleet Academy: Strategic Command
- TOS - Worlds Apart novel: How Much for Just the Planet?
- ST novel: Engines of Destiny
- EV comic: "The Fires of Pharos"
- TNG - TLE novel: The Buried Age
- TNG comics: "A Matter of Conscience...", "The Truth Elusive"
- DS9 novel: Devil in the Sky
- TNG - Assimilation² comic: "Issue 2"
- TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Voyage Home