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Here is the basic outline for the drive:

  • The drive, at its most basic, is a device that converts any matter into pure energy, and the operator can choose exactly what kind of energy is produced, and where it goes.
  • For example, matter can be converted into kinetic energy, and applied to a ship, in the direction that the captain wants to go. It could also be converted into electrical energy, that can then go into the ships energy grid.
  • The conversion takes place in a conversion field, which can be either a shell on the exterior of the ship to convert interstellar dust, gas, etc. into energy, or a small field within the ship to convert the ships trash.

Excess energy can be stored for later use, in a device like the niling d-sinks of Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga.

What I want to know is, would this actually be a good drive system for a spaceship? Would this be more efficient than a matter-antimatter drive? What would happen if, say, due to a computer error, someone accidentally piloted their ship into a planet?

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    $\begingroup$ If you can convert matter to energy, matter IS alreay an energy storage. Why putting an inbetween step? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 15 '17 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should split this question into two parts : First is converting matter into "energy" and second is using "energy" to do something. Both converting regular matter into "energy" and converting "energy" into kinetic force are HUGE gamebreakers. $\endgroup$ – Euphoric Jun 15 '17 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ If you can transform matter into whatever kind of energy, lossless, you're essentially God Almighty and by definition, you are omnipotent. The drive you're proposing is, by definition, the best one it can be made unless you find an energy container denser than barionic matter. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Jun 15 '17 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35, one of the important factors to make this site work is "accept the premise of the question" maybe this drive isn't possible, dragons aren't possible and we don't complain about them (much), accept the premise of the drive and work from there. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 15 '17 at 9:37
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    $\begingroup$ @DracoAtrox You can do that arbitrarily. I mean that in all honesty. You could imagine your drive needs an opneing where someone could shoot a rocket into and the death star explodes. Just one example. It is somewhat difficult to do with a pure description of how any drive works in principle other than that no pure energy exists $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 15 '17 at 10:29
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A perfect black box drive system, non-reaction unfuelled drive system. Efficiency is irrelevant, you're not putting any fuel in so it has no running cost. You've saved yourself from having to work out how to transport large quantities of dangerous fuel/antimatter. In practical terms it can't even be compared to any drive system we've considered.

Ignore the people who shout "it'll never work" just because it'd never work. That's a minor detail.

If you need to accelerate you just fly into something, plenty of reaction mass to get you started on your journey. The home system asteroid belts would be stripped within a decade. Political campaign groups would start up to protect the moons of the outer worlds. Unscrupulous haulage companies would demolish mountains for reaction mass.

The effect of flying a ship full pelt into a planet does depend on how good your external field is. The field would also be running as your navigation shield, absorbing and converting any mass that would otherwise damage your ship into fuel for your ship, but what happens when you get too much mass? Vent it as heat, no problem. If you hit a planet, you're just going to leave a cylindrical hole through the planet and a lot of heat. Kill a few people, cause some interesting geological phenomena, strange weather patterns, nothing terribly exciting for the people on board.

What's potentially more interesting is what happens when you hit another ship.

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If you can convert matter into kinetic energy directly, you have the perfect drive. It is reactionless and lossless. Any conventional drive, say a drive using the radiation produced by annihilation, must needs be less efficient.

What would happen if a ship with such a drive crashed into a planet? Space is mostly empty, so your ship would need a pretty large conversion field, possibly larger than the planet itself. A sizeable part of the planet, or even the entire planet would be instantly converted to whatever "kind of energy" had been selected. Your ship might be vaporized, or accelerated to near-lightspeed, gaining the mass of a planet in the process.

But since such a device most likely contains a large amount of handwavium, other arbitrary effects may occur.

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  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch It answers the question "would this actually be a good drive system for a spaceship". $\endgroup$ – Michael Vehrs Jun 15 '17 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ then please flesh it out a bit. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 15 '17 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch there is nothing to flesh more. the result of the collision depends on settings of the device in the moment of the collision and nature of the device. The device will break and nothing will happen or it might suck the planet into blackhole - without knowing the nature device there is nothing to say about, and OP is free to make fantasies about that himself. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 15 '17 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg, he fleshed out more already. My request to was addressed to the first version $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 15 '17 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch My apologies. I didn't check that. Definitely, the initial version was too short. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jun 15 '17 at 15:29

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