Friday, April 25, 2014

Technology in Warhammer 40,000. 2: Power Generation

Continuing this short series on technology in Warhammer 40k from Rogue Trader, today we look at power generation.

The most obvious example is the first one, and one that Rogue Trader terms "conventional". This is the one that we're all familiar with. Burning fossil fuels to turn turbines to create electricity. And nuclear fission as well. But the word "conventional" does not terminate here for Rogue Trader. It also includes more "modern" (I use the term relatively) wind power, wave power, solar / photoelectric power, and even dung burning on some backward worlds.

The second one is also easy to guess at: Plasma. Given that plasma seems to be everywhere in Warhammer 40k (even weaponised!) its not hard to see why it is a source of power to this fictional era. The only problem with it is the immense magnetic fields (and indeed coils) that need to be generated to contain it. At the time of writing, its hardly efficient. And moreover, I'm not sure how plasma is a power source. Do they grab some by skimming stars and store it for later (to turn turbines and generate electricity)? Or something else. I think Rogue Trader is missing something here: plasma is not a source of power generation in and of itself (that's like saying electricity is a form of power generation - it isn't - it is the product). So I'm left wondering how it is actually generated. Rogue Trader is not specific on this point.

The last one is "crystal batteries". Yes - you read that correctly. But it is completely plausible. The underlying concept is that the crystals "decay" in to a more stable state and release energy doing so. This is just thermodynamics at play: a more energetic state of matter going down in to its lower (ground state?) configuration. It is then re-charged by exposure to sunlight (for instance) to get it back to its higher energy state. Plausible, but no efficient real world analogue at the moment. Great science fiction stuff based on sound thermodynamic principles!


Thor said...

Awesome job with this series. I read the first yesterday. I got into 40K long after the Rogue Trader days so this is all cool 'new' information to me.

Knight of Infinite Resignation said...

with regards to plasma, we may be missing some crucial stage in the process that would be obvious in the universe of 40K.

Perhaps they generate plasma by exposing matter to the energies of the warp, through some catalytic reaction that draws heat from the environment or in another way we haven't thought of!

Lockerd said...

The plasma generation it seems, is created through a form of "fusion" I use that in quotations because of how it works.

essentially, the INITIAL plasma production, is from a micro-star. how this is made, we don't fully know, and even the star part is questionable given the vague sources.

once the initial plasma is made they contain it, then deliver it to ships and other sources, this plasma isn't used solely as the power source, but rather a reactive source to another micro-star (again, unsure as to how this is done), but not a reproductive star, it's assumed this "star" only consumes outside matter, and plasma is the most efficient in this reaction, though anything can be burned.

it explains why the imperium consumes entire worlds of combustable materials, and heavy elements, they go well to burn in these stars.

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