The Minerals of Star Trek

One of the reasons we all love Star Trek is because of its amazing ability to combine science with fantasy and its many possibilities. Star Trek has featured topics like astronomy, biology, and spaceship technology, but also a ton of geology.

The crew of the Enterprise visits mining colonies in many of its episodes and many of their missions include searching for valuable crystals and minerals as well as using raw minerals for fuel.

In the Star Trek series, over 125 minerals are mentioned, with 23 being real minerals found here on Earth. One of the most famous is lithium, in later episodes referred to as dilithium crystals, the only material that can be used in matter-antimatter reactors on board Federation spaceships. The Lithium crystal was the first mineral to be mentioned on the series and the prop used on the show was an actual quartz crystal.

In the episode “Obsession”, Spock analyzes a rock made of the fictional metal tritanium, using the geological tricorder. This mineral is said to be 21.4 times as hard as a diamond and becomes useful in constructing an indestructible spaceship hull.

The fictional mineral pergium is being mined in the episode “The Devil in the Dark,” It is given the atomic number 112 and the symbol Pe. In this episode, Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet Janus IV to investigate the murder of over 50 miners deep in the planet’s bedrock. Pergium is considered to be a valuable energy source and the minors cannot just up and vacate the planet. Kirk and Spock discover that a subterranean, but intelligent silicon-based life form is at the root of these attacks because they feel the minors are infringing in their territory.

An agreement is eventually reached whereby the Horta will drill through the rock so long as the minors do not interfere with them.

Both imaginary and real minerals are mentioned in the Star Trek world, with some of these minerals being involved in stories that sound quite probable while others that are completely far fetched. Many of the chemical and physical aspects of certain minerals mentioned in Star Trek defy science, yet that is an essential element of science fiction and fantasy.

Other fictitious minerals mentioned include the benomite crystal, a very rare mineral used to create a quantum slipstream, as well as many types of fictional gemstones such as the maraji crystal, the rigelian flame gem, and the separ gemstone.

Real minerals mentioned on Star Trek include aragonite, which made up the cave walls on the planet Terra Nova, calcite, coal, diamond, emerald, granite, gold, iridium, limestone, platinum, quartz, ruby, and even salt.

Star Trek is not only inspirational, but the show and its films that followed pose interesting scientific and ethical questions. It gives a hopeful view of the future when it comes to science, technology, and the exploration of space in the final frontier.