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Technical data

A Force field is an energy barrier. The Earth Starfleet began research on force fields in 2147. (ENT: "Vox Sola")

This episode marks the first time an Earth starship possesses the technology to produce a force field.

Force fields can be produced with a strength ranging from level 1 to level 10.

A level 10 force field is the strongest and is mainly used when maximum protection is required. This type of force field would be used, for example, during a scientific experiment from which the outcome is unknown, or known to be explosive in nature. (TNG:"Realm of Fear")

File:Security Officers against Forcefield.jpg
Security officers run into a force field that Data created.

If a force field is active, an object or a transporter beam cannot pass through it. Although this is the expected standard behavior of a force field, this is not always the case. The Borg are known to not be hindered by force fields; they can adapt and simply walk through the field. However, a Borg drone can be cut off from the Borg Collective if it is surrounded by a Starfleet Level 10 force field. (TNG:"I, Borg").

Force fields can be activated from various locations. On Starfleet starships there are emitter points at almost every junction along every corridor. The computer can be programmed to run a series of force field activations and de-activations within the ship, effectively creating a protected corridor which can follow a person. Commander Data used this technique with great control when he commandeered the USS Enterprise-D on stardate 44085.7. He also demonstrated another technique involving instructing the computer to implement a scan-series of force field activations, activated by his movements along a short distance of corridor, thus forcing the security team to back away from him. (TNG: "Brothers").

If necessary, a transporter platform can be completely enclosed within a force field, to, for example, contain an alien subject, or prisioner during tranport. (TNG:"Realm of Fear")

Presumably, to be cut in half by a force field is extremely dangerous, because Lt. Worf warned the rest of the team to stay back as the field approached.

Containment field

A containment field is essentially a force field used to prevent the escape of matter or antimatter.

Containment fields are usually raised when cargo bay or shuttlebay doors are opened to keep them pressurised although the containment field is partially disengaged when a shuttlecraft passes through it. Unfortunately, eighteen engineers from the crew of the USS Yamato were killed when the containment field in one of the shuttlebays failed after the ship was infected with an Iconian software transmission. (TNG: "Contagion") A containment field can be manually activated and deactivated should the need arise. (TNG: "Disaster")

Containment fields can also be used to reinforce antimatter containment although they cannot prevent an impending warp core breach. Lt Cmdr Data raised a Level 3 containment field around the warp core of the Enterprise-D in 2369 when the ship was facing destruction by a core breach. (TNG: "Timescape") By 2379, it was a standard proceedure on the Enterprise-E for the warp core to be reinforced by a high-level force field before engaging in battle. ("Star Trek: Nemesis")

Inertial dampers, structural integrity and emergency force fields

The structural integrity of a ship or starbase can be enhanced by force fields. This way the hull can absorb more mechanical stresses.

The Inertial dampning systems consist of a network of force fields that continually adapt and compensate for the inertial effects of interstellar travel. They are almost entirely controlled by the ship's computer, which allows for instant fine adjustment of these fields' geometries, and to even anticipate resultant forces from the engines.

Voyager shields
An example of defensive force field shielding

Starships and starbases are often equipped with external force field emmitters, which, when activated, produce a 'bubble' around itself, known as defensive shields. These shields are variable, and can even be extended to encompass a nearby vessel or object. (TNG: "The Defector"). Defensive force fields can be penetrated in two ways. The most conventional method involves firing energy weapons at the shielded object, which weakens the field. The other method is acheived by matching the frequency of the shield to the weapon used. (Star Trek: Generations). Chroniton torpedos cannot be stopped by normal shielding but require some kind of temporal shielding. (VOY: "Year of Hell, Part I").

In the event of outer hull breach, force fields are automatically deployed to protect the damaged part from the influences of space; at the same time it prevents decompression of the entire deck by keeping the atmosphere in. During critical situations ,such as ship-to-ship battles, if the main defensive force field is ruptured, and a section of the ship is destroyed, it takes longer for the computer to re-establish the structural integrity field than usual because of the large energy demands already placed on the vessel. In this short space of time, sections of a vessel can indeed be exposed to the vacuum of space. Captain Kirk was lost to the vacuum of space in this way, in 2293, when the Enterprise B was struck by the nexus energy ribbon. (Star Trek: Generations). A lieutenant aboard the Enterprise-E, in 2379, was sucked out into space before an emergency force field could be activated, when the bridge front wall and viewscreen were destroyed by the Reman warbird, Scimitar. (Star Trek: Nemesis)

On stardate 49263.5, the USS Defiant, under the command of Captain Sisko, decended into the atmosphere of a Class-J gas giant, with 10,000kmph wind speeds. The emergency force field that was erected to save the ship from decompression due to a hull breach was not able to withstand the pressure for more than a few minutes. (DS9: "Starship Down")

In essence all force fields are the same - the function they perform depends on their strength. A transporter can still beam something inside a containment field but not through a defensive shield, although this might have something to do with the procedures crewmembers have to follow when preforming a certain task.

Examples of other federation force field applications

EMHMarkI
The EMH Mark I

On holodecks, force fields are used to give objects substance so people can manipulate them like in real life. These forcefields have no substance outside the holodeck. They can be configured to either allow passage of 'real' matter, or appear solid.

In sickbay a force field can be used to separate a patient from the rest of the crew when a contagious disease is diagnosed or when that patient needs a specific environment to stay alive. (TNG: "Brothers", VOY: "Demon")

The EMH and other variants (ECH, slave Mark Is) use force fields to mimic substantiality and to allow manipulation of tools, manual computer access, and for the instruction of social interaction.

Force fields are used to contain prisoners inside the holding cells of various races, including Humans, Klingons and Cardassians. See also: brig. By 2366, force field technology had advanced sufficiently to allow a tubular force field to be projected from the ceiling to the floor, to encompass an alien intruder. This was acheived on the bridge of the Enterprise-D. (TNG: "Allegiance")

Most Federation penal colonies have force fields to prevent escape. Examples include Elba II, and Tantalus Penal Colony. (TOS: "Whom Gods Destroy", "Dagger of the Mind")

Onboard the USS Defiant (NX-74205), by 2373, a holo-projection system had been installed on the bridge, linked up to the communications system. In this way, a person could 'appear' and speak to one another. However, this form of holoprojection had no cohesion, and so they could not interact directly. See also: holo-communicator. (DS9: "For the Uniform")

During the late 2260s and early 2270s, a device known as a life support belt was used onboard Starfleet vessels. This was a type of personal force field that supplies the wearer with the appropriate atmosphere and protects them from the vacuum of space. (TAS: "Beyond the Farthest Star", "The Slaver Weapon") This type of technology has only been seen in one other application. In 2369, Captain Picard, Commander Data, Deanna Troi, and Geordi La Forge used subspace isolation fields, projected from modified emergency transporter armbands, that enveloped each of them in their own pocket of subspace. This isolated them from the effects of the temporal fragment that affected the Enterprise-D. This is an example of a 'skin-tight' force field, rather than the conventional bubble geometry. (TNG: "Timescape")

Examples of non-starfleet force field applications

In 2154, the Enterprise (NX-01) encountered an Illyrian ship in the vicinity of the Azati Prime system in the Delphic Expanse. This small ship had a force field surrounding its warp core, which prevented Commander Tucker from removing it easily. (ENT: "Damage")

In 2267, Apollo, from Pollux IV used advanced force field technologies to create a gigantic hand to hold the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) in space. This force field could be penetrated by M-rays at carefully calculated frequencies. (TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?")

In 2346, the Khitomer colony had a force field to help protect itself from attacks. The Khitomer Massacre could have been averted, if the Klingon traitor Ja'rod had not given the Romulans the codes to the force field surrounding the colony. (TNG: "Sins of the Father")

In 2364, the crew of the Enteprise-D encountered the Echo Papa 607 weapon, on Minos. One of the weapon's special features is the ability to encase a target in a bubble force field. (TNG: "The Arsenal of Freedom") Earlier that year, the entity known as Q used an immensely powerful force field to block the Enterprise's passage. (TNG: "Hide and Q")

In the same year, the Enterprise-D re-discovered the planet Aldea. The Aldeans hid their planet behind a very powerful planet-wide cloak and a defensive shield. (TNG: "When the Bough Breaks")

In 2367, Captain Picard, Ensign Crusher, along with a civilian shuttle captain Dirgo, discovered a fountain of water surrounded by a force field, on Lambda Paz. (TNG: "Final Mission")

Dr Soran used a high-power force field (rated in gigawatts) to protect himself and his star-destroying weapon from Captain Picard in 2371. (Star Trek: Generations)

By 2373, the Breen had developed a hand-held weapon (the CRM 114), which can penetrate force fields of upto 4.6 gigajoules. (DS9: "Business as Usual")

References

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