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Dilithium is an element, a member of the hypersonic series, primarily occurring as a crystalline mineral. It was a critical component of warp drive. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1")

Alternative local names for dilithium included radan and winter's tear. (TOS: "Elaan of Troyius"; VOY: "Muse")

Dilithium consisted of spiral molecules. (TAS: "The Terratin Incident")

Under certain rare circumstances, dilithium deposits could form in such a way that the crystals grew into perfectly aligned lattices. If enough dilithium was present, it began to form "generator strata". A piezoelectric effect occurred when the crystals took the radiant heat of the planet and converted it into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy could increase tectonic stresses in a planet's crust to the point where the planet literally tore itself apart. This phenomenon was responsible for the destruction of a number of planets in the Selcundi Drema sector.

The number of planets destroyed in the Selcundi Drema sector by the process described above in that episode suggests that for some reason the region had a much higher "population" of dilithium bearing planets than would otherwise be expected.

Dilithium processing facility

A Federation dilithium processing facility

One method of detecting the potential presence of dilithium deposits during a geological survey was by studying UV absorption patterns. Certain characteristic patterns tended to indicate the presence of traker deposits, which were commonly formed along with the dilithium ore. An ico-spectrogram could then be run to confirm the ore's presence. (TNG: "Pen Pals")


Radan necklace

A radan necklace

Dilithium could be found on only a few planets in the galaxy, and was therefore a rare and valuable substance.

On Troyius, crude dilithium crystals were known as "radans", a common stone of little value. Its uses included jewelry. (TOS: "Elaan of Troyius")

On Kelis' homeworld in the Delta Quadrant, natural dilithium crystals found were called "winter's tear". (VOY: "Muse")

After being sent back in time to 1947, Quark asked US Lieutenant General Denning if dilithium was used as a currency. (DS9: "Little Green Men")

By the 2250s, the demand for dilithium resulted in extensive mining and ecological damage to its source planets. Paul Stamets hoped that the spore drive would provide a viable and renewable alternative to dilithium that would prevent further ecological damage caused by its mining. (DIS: "An Obol for Charon")

An example of such damage can perhaps be seen in the case of Corvan gilvos, whose habitat on Corvan II, a significant dilithium source, was endangered by "industrial pollutants" by 2368; however a direct connection with the dilithium mining is not made on-screen

In 2267, the Federation attempted to open negotiations with the Halkans to allow the Federation to mine dilithium from their planet, but they refused out of fear that the Federation would one day use their materials for acts of violence. That same year, in the mirror universe, the Halkans refused an explicit demand from the crew of the ISS Enterprise for their dilithium crystals. Standard procedure dictated a phaser barrage on their cities, but Captain James T. Kirk, accidentally sent to the mirror universe, would not allow this. (TOS: "Mirror, Mirror")

Dilithium crystal graphic

Dilithium crystal diagram as seen in the Delta Flyer's computer core

In 2270, James T. Kirk offered an Orion captain the dilithium shipment carried by the USS Huron as well as an additional galactic standard weight container of dilithium in exchange for the strobolin that the Huron was bringing them, as they desperately needed it to cure Spock's choriocytosis. (TAS: "The Pirates of Orion")

Dozaria was rich in dilithium, which attracted the Breen to the planet. In 2366, they forced the Ravinok to crash on the planet and put the survivors to work in the dilithium mine. (DS9: "Indiscretion")

Dukat and Damar were able to trick Captain K'Temang into believing the Groumall was carrying refined dilithium crystals by modifying the Cardassian freighter's subspace transceiver array to emit a false dilithium signal. (DS9: "Return to Grace")

Odo and several members of the Cardassian Rebellion destroyed the Tevak shipyards by sabotaging the dilithium in its storage bunkers. (DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind")

Lyndsay Ballard said that dilithium extraction was always one of B'Elanna Torres' specialties. (VOY: "Ashes to Ashes") Torres helped Neelix prepare for a mining operation by giving him material to study on dilithium geophysics. (VOY: "Phage")

By the late 31st century, the dilithium supply in the galaxy began to dry up. This caused the Federation to start trials on alternate warp drive designs but none proved reliable. In roughly 3069, refined dilithium across the galaxy suddenly became inert, resulting in an uncontrolled mixing of matter and antimatter which destroyed all ships that had an active warp core. This disastrous event was known as "the Burn". This event lead to the near-collapse of the Federation, and the balkanization of former Federation worlds such as Earth and Ni'Var. As a result of the Burn, the remaining unrefined dilithium became highly sought after. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1", "People of Earth", "Unification III")

In 3189, the USS Discovery discovered Theta Zeta, a planet composed of dilithium, in the Verubin Nebula while investigating the cause of the Burn. The large repository gave Starfleet a means to distribute dilithium to planets and systems around the galaxy. (DIS: "Su'Kal", "That Hope Is You, Part 2")

Uses of dilithium[]

Dilithium crystal converter assembly

A damaged dilithium crystal in 2268

Dilithium reamplification

Re-amplifying dilithium crystals in 2267

While the early Earth NX-class starships utilized dilithium matrices in their warp cores, (ENT: "Affliction") during the mid-2260s, Constitution-class also used crystallized lithium. (TOS: "Mudd's Women")

In Starfleet starships, dilithium was used to regulate the matter/antimatter reaction. Injectors would feed matter and antimatter into the dilithium chamber, where the two substances would mix and react, with the dilithium crystals used to control the reaction. (ENT: "Bound")

Housed in a dilithium crystal converter assembly, the crystals were used as a power source as well as a regulator. Dependency on that power meant the starships risked losing the ability to maintain an orbit, let alone use of their warp drive, when a number of dilithium crystals were drained of their power or became fused in their assembly. In some circumstances, crystals could be re-amplified to provide continued service, rather than replaced. Alternatively, crude crystals might be used, though their unusual shapes could affect the energy flow in unpredictable and potentially catastrophic ways. (TOS: "The Alternative Factor", "Elaan of Troyius")

Use of dilithium resulted in decrystallization, effectively leaving it drained. Traces of illium-629 might be produced in its breakdown. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; TNG: "Pen Pals")

Discovery dilithium stores

Surplus dilithium stores were necessary aboard starships in the 23rd century

In or around 2257, Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po, a member of the Xahean royal family, built an incubator to recrystallize dilithium. (ST: "Runaway") However, Starfleet did not have this ability until at least the 2280s. During a time travel mission from 2286 to 1986, Spock and Montgomery Scott developed a method of recrystallizing dilithium through exposure to high-energy photons from the toxic nuclear fission reactors of that era. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

By the 2360s, Starfleet had the ability to synthesize dilithium via recrystallization while it was still enclosed in the warp core's dilithium articulation frame using a theta-matrix compositor. This was done by recompositing fractured crystals. (TNG: "Time Squared", "Relics"; VOY: "Innocence")

In 2372, the USS Voyager discovered a new form of dilithium in the Delta Quadrant that remained stable at much higher reaction rates, thus allowing a vessel to travel more efficiently at much higher speeds. This dilithium was installed aboard the shuttlecraft Cochrane to test an experimental warp 10 flight. (VOY: "Threshold")

The use of dilithium in a starship's warp core could be hazardous. One possible danger was dilithium burns, which Ensign Sam Rutherford regarded as potentially fatal. (LD: "Envoys")

If dilithium was not lined up properly, it could cause antimatter imbalance which can lead to the forming of an unstable wormhole and the phenomenon called wormhole effect.

In the mid-2270s, one such incident happened. Captain Kirk was in a hurry to intercept V'ger that he did not give Montgomery Scott time to test the warp core or to align the crystals. Because of this when the Enterprise went into warp, it became trapped in a wormhole and quick action by Decker and Chekov was what saved the ship. Spock arrived later and rebalanaced the engines back into full warp capacity, thereby properly allowing them to return to warp. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Another incident occurred in 2375, when the USS Voyager was testing the quantum slipstream drive. Improper vectors from the Delta Flyer lead to the creation of a wormhole which caused Voyager to crash on a Class L ice world in the Takara sector outside the Alpha Quadrant. An older Harry Kim of this alternate timeline fixed this by sending a message through time to Seven of Nine with new vectors that caused Voyager to drop out of slipstream before it would have crashed, but the slipstream drive was scrapped until Voyager found a new way to get home. (VOY: "Timeless")

Another example of improper dilithium handling took place on Planet 0042692, after the Class F shuttlecraft Galileo crash-landed inside a dilithium-filled cavern and began leaking warp plasma. For over a century, the leakage combined with the dilithium crystals, creating a kind of toxic runoff and causing a disease that the locals dubbed "The Gallows". Fortunately, the crew of the USS Protostar managed to synthesize an antidote, and sealed off the cavern, to prevent any further contamination to the land. (PRO: "All the World's a Stage")

Known dilithium sources[]


See also[]

Background information[]

Scientifically, use of the prefix "di-" denotes two atoms, suggesting dilithium consists of two atoms of lithium. However, lithium, being a metal, should not be able to exist in this state, as metals cannot form diatomic molecules. "Real" dilithium (two lithium atoms in a covalent bond) is only currently known to exist as a gas. As an alternative explanation, two science advisers for the franchise proposed that the "di-" in dilithium refers its normal space and subspace components. [1]

According to Star Trek Encyclopedia, originally, lithium was said to be used to control the warp reaction, but it was quickly realized that since lithium was a real element, with known properties, it would not be able to do some of the things the writers wanted it to do.

According to the Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual, (p. 17) dilithium's symbol was Dl, and it had the atomic weight 315 and atomic number 119. It was first discovered by Humans as early as 2049 on the "fifth moon of Jupiter", which would be Io by today's numbering.

Dilithium was also mentioned in a deleted scene from the Star Trek: Enterprise first season episode "Two Days and Two Nights". In this scene, dilithium was the payment to the Risians for the shore leave of several crew members on the planet Risa.

In the script of Star Trek but not the final version of that film, the prime version of Montgomery Scott was said to have discovered not transwarp beaming, but the correct field equation to recrystallize dilithium, which was what made transwarp beaming possible.


Several prop dilithium clusters were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. [2] [3]

Star Trek Online introduced dilithium as a currency in its fifth season, "Call to Arms".

According to the book Star Trek: Federation - The First 150 Years, dilithium was first discovered in an excavation site at Earth's south pole, apparently having come to Earth in a meteorite.

According to the novels Prime Directive and Firestorm dilithium has a crystallographic structure identical to quartz, except that part of its structure extends into the fourth dimension. 2-3% of the quartz on Earth is actually dilithium.

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