Protoculture energy production and operating principles

Protoculture is the process by which energy is derived from the seeds of the Invid Flower of Life, when prevented by pressure from germinating. The energy is produced by a process of cold fusion of trace elements contained in a lithium- and deuterium-rich solution which permeates the seeds and their environs. In nature the strength of this reaction is limited by the natural abundances of the necessary isotopes, but in man-made situations, the solutions can be made far richer, depending upon the required rate of energy generation. A long and specialized protein chain (known as the fusor sequence) within specialized organelles in the seed’s cells binds to the necessary reactants, and twists into a tight bundle which squeezes the lithium-6 and deuterium atoms into very close proximity. Being bosons (particles whose spins are an integer multiple of Planck’s constant), the resultant atoms – compressed together – are not affected by the effective repulsion from the Pauli principle. Only the electrostatic barriers to fusion – the repulsion of the two positively-charged nuclei – need be overcome.

This solution, which also includes several seed-beneficent nutrients, is known as the Protoculture Matrix, but is often simply misnamed “Protoculture” – leading to the common and erroneous belief that Protoculture, in reality a process, is actually a substance that fuels mecha and generators. The Protoculture Matrix can be tailored to fit the intended application of the energy released in the “organic fusion” process. Maintained in bio-stasis, the seeds gradually surrender their stores of energy; the richer the lithium-deuterium solution, the quicker the depletion. For sustained energy, a moderately dilute solution and moderate pressure are needed. This is the basis for most civil and ship-board Protoculture generators. Ideally, because of the seed’s enormous capacity for self-repair, this output could be maintained indefinitely so long as the needed reactants and nutrients in the solution are replenished. However, as the solution begins to accrue carbon and other waste elements from the fusion process, these waste materials bond together to form simple organic molecules, which build up in the seed itself and cannot be filtered out, allowing the seeds to receive nutrition sufficient to crack the slowly-weakened seed-husk and germinate. Thus, the sprouting sporofers of the Flower end up consuming the Matrix.

On the other hand, some applications require a large amount of energy to be delivered in a short period of time. For this, an extremely rich solution of Matrix is required, and the seed must be held under extreme pressure. This approach is the basis of the Protoculture cell. This process is very effective for applications where the smallest possible generator is needed, though the cells only last a very short amount of time. Unlike the conditions in the more moderate generators, the furious pace of energy production by seeds in the rich Matrix and extreme pressure of a cell results in an inability for those self-same seeds to germinate. By the time most of the Matrix has been depleted, the seeds contained in the cell are dead.

In both cases, the energy of fusion is released in the form of energetic particles which are absorbed by the seed itself, causing the generation of heat. Useful energy is derived from these seeds by strong and efficient conduction of the heat from the seed to thermocouples, which convert the heat into electrical potentials and energy. Waste heat is shunted out of the generator and is virtually the only undesirable by-product of the Protoculture process. This is minimized because Tirolian materials technology was able to develop a thermocouple that operated at very close to the thermodynamical limit of efficiency – and this technology was adopted in full by every race that has ever used the seeds for energy, including the Invid themselves.

The basic use of the Protoculture process in the two main modes of extracting usable energy are mentioned above. Both were developed by the Tirolians in the middle of our fourteenth century for commercial and military use, to provide as-yet undreamed-of levels of power for absolutely minimal mass, volume, and cost. Though technologies have improved upon both cell and generator since, the basic principles have remained the same, and in the case of the cell, the standards have been rigorously adhered to for all this time, increasing energy release rate and storage capacity without affecting backwards compatibility of the new cells with old engine designs.

Protoculture Energizer

The cell was the most important design from a military standpoint. It permitted a war machine to bristle with thrusters and beam guns to a degree greater than ever before, not only because of the increased power available to it, but also because much of the mass of more traditional generators could be eliminated. The Tirolians used the cell in all Zentraedi mecha (except the large shuttles and reconnaissance vehicles). Because Zentraedi mecha were considered expendable, this design feature allowed costs to be cut dramatically, but it also secured Zentraedi dependence on the Masters for a flow of Protoculture cells for their mecha – and with dependence came security from rebellion. Indeed, the need to power their mecha was a major problem for the “Disciples of Zor” (as the combined forces of culture-contaminated Zentraedi and their Ci’Vonian sponsors came to be called) and many of their military actions were simple raids on Protoculture cell storage facilities.

The Invid, on the other hand, were largely bereft of seeds of the Flower of Life – and were for many centuries unable to provide their own power. Like the “Disciples of Zor”, the Invid also relied upon captured stocks of Protoculture to power their armies and designed all their early mecha around the Tirolian standard cell. Even when they occupied Earth, the Invid continued to produce cells to power their older mecha, even though the Gamo and Gosu – the newest front-line mecha – used generators.

Despite the military importance of cells, they were rarely used for space vessels and installations, valuable mecha, or for any civilian applications. For these, generators of varying sizes and output rates were designed by Tirol, both for domestic use and export to colony and client worlds. The largest such generators powered the Zentraedi flagships and Tirolian mother-ships, while the smallest would provide energy to the Tirolians’ Bioroids.

Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. Genesis Climber MOSPEADA (R) is the property of Fuji Television, Artmic Studio and Tatsunoko Production. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights.

Original artwork by: Yoshitaka Amano, Shinji Aramaki and Hideki Kakinuma

Acknowledgement is extended to Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide. Peter Walker, Pieter Thomassen and Robert Morgenstern are given credit for all quotes and paraphrasing of the unofficial Robotech Reference Guide that has been utilized in this publication.

Content by Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker, and Rob Morgenstern, edited by Tim Wing

Copyright © 2001, 1999, 1997, 1995 Robert Morgenstern, Pieter Thomassen, Peter Walker; 2021 Tim Wing