The transporter is probably the single greatest revolution in the movement of people and goods in recorded history; invented in 2135, the first transporter cleared for for the transport of biological organisms was installed aboard the NX class starship Enterprise in 2151. Although many crewmembers did not trust the new device, with some justification1
, the transporter eventually became a common feature of 22nd century life.
The basic operating principles of the transporter are relatively simple. It makes a detailed scan of the subject, breaks down its molecular structure, then transmits this beam to another location. The information gained from the scan is then used to reassemble the subject exactly as before.
Like many simple ideas, the actual engineering required to construct a working transporter are quite more complex. A standard transporter unit consists of ten major components :
The Transport Chamber is the area in which the subject is placed for transport. The transport chamber can be of almost any size or shape, though larger chambers have far greater energy requirements and are correspondingly less efficient for general use. Most transport chambers are capable of holding approximately six persons.
The Operators Console is the control unit of the whole system; these consoles are typically manned by a single operator who oversees the transport process and is responsible for reacting to emergency situations, as well as conducting routine maintenance of the transporter systems.
The Transporter Controller is a dedicated computer system which controls the minutiae of the transport process itself.
The Primary Energizing Coils are located directly above the transport chamber. These coils generate the annular confinement beam, creating a space-time matrix within which the dematerializing process occurs. The primary energizing coils also generate a containment field around the subject in order to prevent any possible breach of the annular confinement beam during the transport process. This is important as such disruption can result in a sizeable energy discharge.
The Phase Transition Coils are located in the floor of the transport chamber. It is the phase transition coils that cause the actual dematerialisation/materialisation process. They do this be decoupling the binding energy between the subatomic particles of the subject, causing the atoms themselves to disintegrate.
Molecular Imaging Scanners are located in the roof of the transport chamber. These devices scan the subject to be transported at quantum resolution, determining the location and momentum of every particle within the subject. Bulk cargo can be scanned at the molecular resolution, as it is not generally vital to recreate the object exactly. Living matter requires that exact information be obtained, a process which violates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This is made possible by the Heisenberg Compensator system, a component of the molecular imaging scanners of all personnel transport systems. All transporters are built with four redundant sets of scanners, allowing any three to override a fourth should it make an error. Should two scanners produce the same error the transport process would be aborted automatically by the transport controller system.
The Pattern Buffer is a large super conducting tokamak device, usually situated directly underneath the transporter unit itself. Once the subject has been dematerialized they are passed into the pattern buffer and held in suspension while the system compensates for relative motion between itself and the target location. Pattern buffers can be shared by several different transport systems, although only one transporter can use a given buffer at a time. Should an emergency arise during transport a pattern can be held suspended in a transport buffer without being either sent or dematerialized; however, after a few minutes such a pattern will begin to degrade to the point at which the subject will be unrecoverable.
The Biofilter is an image processing device which analyses the data from the molecular imaging scanner in order to locate any potentially damaging organisms which may have infected the subject. The biofilter is not generally a part of civilian transporter systems, though it is mandatory on all Starfleet transporters.
The Emitter Pad Array is mounted on the exterior of the transport system itself - in the case of a spacecraft, on the hull of the ship. The array transmits the actual matter stream to or from the destination. Components of the emitter array include the phase transition matrix and primary energizing coils. Some transporter systems also contain clusters of long range molecular imaging scanners within the emitter pad; this allows the system to lock onto targets at long range to beam them from remote locations without outside assistance. Most transporter systems do not include long range molecular scanners; such transporters can only beam to and from other other systems.
Targeting Scanners are a set of redundant sensors which are responsible for determining the exact location of the destination in relation to the transporter unit. Targeting scanners also determine the environmental conditions at the target site. Although dedicated targeting scanners should ideally be a component of any transport process, in practice any sensor device of sufficient range and accuracy can provide the required information so long as it is compatible with the transporter controller information protocols. In addition, if transport is being conducted between systems with a fixed relative position - planetary transporter units, for example - targeting information can be disregarded.
The precise operation of a transporter naturally depends on the level of system specifications. Starfleet transporters are generally reckoned to be the most advanced in the Federation, since they are required to perform a wider range of tasks over much more variable conditions than civilian models. A typical operations for Starfleet transporters include the following :
Beam up involves using the emitter array as the primary energizing coil in order to beam a subject from a remote location which does not have a transporter system.
Site-to-site transport involves following the conventional beam up process until the subject is in the pattern buffer; the subject is then shunted to a second pattern buffer and on to another emitter array before being beamed out to a new location. This process essentially merges two transport processes in order to allow a subject to be beamed from one location to another without having to rematerialise on board ship first. This process is avoided if possible since it requires double the energy expenditure and system resources to accomplish each transport.
Hold in pattern buffer. As described, the pattern buffer can be used to hold a subject essentially is stasis. Normally these patterns will degrade after just a few minutes at most, though on one occasion a specially modified transporter held a subject intact for seventy five years.
Dispersal. Although transporter systems are designed to beam a subject to or from a destination intact, it is possible to override the safety systems on a standard Starfleet transporter and cause it to deliberately disperse the subject over a wide area. This is done by disengaging the annular confinement beam during rematerialization, depriving the subject of a proper reference matrix to form against. Such a measure may be used in order to neutralize a dangerous payload such as a bomb or other weapon; the measure is frequently complemented by materializing the subject in space.
Near warp transport is achieved by careful shifting of the ACB frequency. This can be an uncomfortable experience for those who go through it, and on occasion can even be dangerous.
Warp transport can be achieved by the same method as near warp transport; this is only effective if the origin and destination are moving at the same warp speed. Transport between locations moving with different warp speeds result in a catastrophic loss of pattern integrity - this is fatal to living organisms.2