The supermatter engine, located in the northwest part of Engineering, is the main source of power for the Tether.
The supermatter engine can be extremely dangerous; when deliberately tampered with or poorly set up, it can easily blow a substantial hole in Engineering and leave the facility all but powerless in the aftermath.
- 1 Safety First
- 2 Principles of Operation
- 3 Procedures
- 4 Engine Setup
- 5 Optimization and Maintenance
- 6 Engine Emergencies
There are a few important safety principles to remember when working with the engine:
- The supermatter is extremely dangerous. You can pull it, but any other attempt to touch or grab it, or bumping into it, or trying to use an item on it (you get the idea) will result in you instantly turning into a pile of ash.
- If it is absolutely essential to interact with the supermatter, you will want to ensure that you have received a backup implant from Medbay in case something goes wrong.
- The radiation from the supermatter is also dangerous. Inactive crystals release low levels of radiation, but the engine room can be safely entered as long as the core blast doors remain shut. You should wear a radiation suit, with a hood, at all times when working in the active engine.
- Suits are available in the engine entrance airlock, the engine monitoring room, and the engine gas storage room.
- Engineering voidsuits will not protect you from radiation. They provide some protection, enough to keep you out of immediate danger if you need to work with the engine while it is not atmospherically stable, but you should always wear a radiation suit if possible.
- The Chief Engineer's hardsuit and EVA hardsuit are fully rad-shielded, in the event that prolonged exposure to both the supermatter and vacuum are mandatory.
- The supermatter, even while inactive, will cause hallucinations and other mental effects if seen directly. Optical meson scanners must always be worn when working in the engine room.
- Meson scanners are available in the same lockers as the radiation suits, though you should probably be wearing your own pair from your locker anyway. They don't need to be turned on to protect your eyes, you just need to be wearing them.
- The laser from the emitter is incredibly deadly. Don't walk in front of the emitter while it is on.
- The emitter beam is capable of damaging and destroying the core blast doors if they are kept closed. Always ensure that the blast doors are open when firing the emitter.
Principles of Operation
If you are new to the engine and the only engineer on shift, skip ahead to "Engine Setup" for a quick guide on how to get the engine running, and come back to this later.
Labelled Engine Room
1. The omnifilters and the high-power pump that leads into the waste loop. This is where you set where your coolant is filtered to. North goes to waste, south is the pipeline awaiting filtering.
2. Coolant loop & high-power pump that pushes cooled coolant into the generator loop.
3. Waste management. More on that down below. Used for containing filtered non-coolant gas and preventing it from getting too hot.
4. Input and syphon for the gas loop. Middle two are inputs. Left one pushes into the yellow pipes, which go into the supermatter chamber, are siphoned out by the vent inside the chamber and are pushed into the generator hot loop, before getting filtered and dumped back into the chamber.
5. Emergency coolant valve. For when you need to immediately dump something cold into the chamber. They are digital valves.
The engine uses a Thermoelectric Generator - TEG for short. Its right side is heated by the supermatter, while the left side is cooled using the radiators. There are two TEGs, each has a nominal maximum output of 500 kW of electricity, though higher power outputs are entirely safe.
In its base state, the supermatter does not produce any heat, but when it is activated by the emitter which is in the engine room for this purpose, the core begins to heat up. For this reason, in order to produce heat and therefore power, the supermatter must be energized using the emitter; this is referred to as "starting" the engine.
Activating the supermatter causes it to produce not only heat and radiation, but also oxygen and phoron. The gas from the engine is drained using a vent pump to the right of the supermatter. It passes through red pipes where it enters the TEGs, is cooled down using the gas from the cold loop to produce power, and moves to the yellow pipes. The yellow pipes have two omni gas filters attached to them. These are used to filter the selected engine coolant back into the hot loop, while allowing all other gases to pass through to the waste cooling and storage canister. The filtered and cooled coolant is then injected back into the core chamber to repeat the process.
Exposure to oxygen causes the supermatter to increase in reactivity, which makes it produce greater quantities of oxygen. Positive feedback loops are possible in certain circumstances.
Once power is generated by the TEGs, it flows through the yellow power cables which run from the TEGs themselves to SMES room to the northeast. Two SMES units draw power from this direct output circuit; the engine room SMES to the left and the main power distribution SMES to the right. The engine room SMES powers all of the equipment in the engine room via the Engine Room APC; the main grid SMES provides power to the rest of the facilty.
The engine room SMES draws around 60kW in normal conditions. The main grid SMES output will depend on the facility's power draw.
Engine Waste Handling
The pipes along the north wall of the engine room cool and store the unwanted byproducts filtered from the engine hot loop. The black pipes to the right are the intercooler loop; they run out into space and the gas within them is cooled by radiating heat out into space. The byproducts never enter the intercooler loop; it must be filled with coolant (usually phoron, but any gas will do fine.) to work.
The black pipes and canister on the left contain the engine waste.
The weird grey things between the two pipe networks are the heat exchangers; they let the heated gas in the byproduct lines be cooled by the colder gas in the intercooler loop.
The Engine Monitoring room, located immediately fore of the engine itself, contains five computers as well as three buttons to control the functioning of the engine.
From north to south, the computers are:
- Engine Cooling Control: Shows the status of the engine, including temperature, pressure, and the composition of the gas mixture in the core. It also allows full control over the core vent pump and gas injector, should the hot loop circulation need to be modified.
- Power Monitoring: Allows viewing of the powernet sensors on the current level, which includes the engine output, engine room, engineering, and master grids.
- Engineering Cameras: Provides access to the cameras in the engineering department, which includes the engine room, atmospherics, solar array, and those of any engineering robots or maintenance drones.
- RCON: Monitors and controls all of the SMES on the facility.
- Station Alert Computer: Shows power, atmospheric, and fire alarms from anywhere across the facility.
The three buttons are:
- Reactor Blast Doors (top left): Opens and closes the engine core blast doors.
- Engine Emitter (top right): Toggles the emitter in the engine room on and off.
- Engine Monitoring Room Blast Doors (bottom): Opens and closes the safety shutters separating Engine Monitoring from the engine room.
This section describes all of the basic procedures which can be carried out with the engine room equipment, including several procedures which form part of the setup process, but is not a comprehensive guide to engine setup. For that, see Engine Setup below.
The line of canister ports just south of the engine core allow gas to be freely added and removed from both the hot and cold loops. To add coolant to the engine:
- There are four phoron canisters in engineering gas storage room behind the blast doors to the south. Pull two to the input ports in the center.
- Use a wrench on the canisters to attach them to the ports.
- Access the pumps controls by clicking with an empty hand on the pump; click "MAX" to maximise the target pressure and click on the power toggle to turn it on.
- When the coolant canister is empty, wrench it again to disconnect it, and either reuse it as a drain tank or drag it to Atmospherics so that it can be refilled.
- Add an additional canister to the cold loop.
Starting the Engine
Do not start the engine unless all other engine setup has been completed.
Starting the engine entails activating the supermatter core using the emitter in the engine room. In can be done from either inside the engine room itself, or inside the Engine Monitoring Room.
- Ensure that all engine setup has been completed.
- Open the Reactor Blast Doors using the appropriate button.
- Activate the emitter.
- From inside the engine room, click on the emitter itself with an empty hand. From the Engine Monitoring room, press the button.
- Allow the emitter to fire the required number of shots.
- The emitter fires in bursts of four shots with a longer pause between bursts. You can turn it off at any time, even in the middle of a burst.
- 16 shots will provide sufficient power to the facilty for the the length of a normal shift. Additional shots will provide more power, but risk causing radiation to penetrate beyond the engine room into the monitoring room and engine hallway.
- If you are "boosting" the engine mid-shift, you should never fire more than one shot at a time, then give it some time to see that temperature is stable.
- Turn the emitter off in the same way you turned it on.
- Close the Reactor Blast Doors.
Removing Engine Coolant
In some situations, such as minor overheating of the engine, you may wish to purge the engine of coolant before injecting more. The engine is specifically designed to allow you to pump coolant into canisters in order to do this.
- Find an empty canister and relabel it as a hazard canister.
- (To do this, click on the canister with an empty hand to access its control panel, and then click the "Relabel" button. The button will be greyed out unless the canister is completely empty)
- Use a wrench to attach the hazard canister to hot loop gas removal connector, on the far left of the coolant input/output array.
- Turn the pump on and set the target pressure to maximum.
- Wait for the engine to drain. This can take time, and may require changing a full hazard canister for an empty one, using a to disconnect the one and connect the other.
- In an emergency, it is seldom necessary to fully drain the engine before injecting new coolant. Alternating between both may be less risky.
- Once the engine has drained, turn off the pump.
- Disconnect the hazard canister containing the drained coolant, and return it to Atmospherics to be emptied.
- It is essential to add new coolant if the old coolant has been drained. Without coolant, the engine will rapidly overheat.
Venting the Core
When engine overheating is serious enough that there is no time to drain the engine, the coolant inside the engine can instead be vented into space. There is a shutter north of the core which vents directly into space. There are two buttons which control this shutter. One is located in the along the south wall of the engine room, another in the Chief Engineer's Office near the entrance to the Engineering lobby.
Venting the core is as simple as pressing either of the two buttons to open the shutters, and allowing the coolant to vent. This can take a long time - up to a minute or two if the coolant is especially hot or high-pressure - since much of the coolant will be in the pipes rather than in the core when venting starts. Engine pressure can be monitored from the Engine Cooling Control computer in Engine Monitoring.
Once the core has been fully vented, be sure to close the shutter before refilling it with coolant.
Ejecting the Supermatter
If it is utterly impossible to salvage the engine situation, it is possible to eject the supermatter into space, avoiding severe damage to the facilty.
- Gain access to the Chief Engineer's Office, where the eject button is located.
- If there is no Chief Engineer on staff, you will need to ask the AI to open the door for you.
- If there is no AI either, you will need to either hack the airlock or disassemble one of the windows to get in.
- Ensure the the engine vent is open. There is a button to do so on the wall behind the Chief Engineer's desk, and another in the engine.
- If you accidentally close the shutters instead of opening them by pushing the button when someone in the engine room has already opened them (or someone else does so) the ejection will fail, and will not be repeatable.
- The eject button is located in an alcove behind the Chief Engineer's desk, behind a glass panel. Break the glass using your crowbar, a toolbox, or any other heavy object. Doing so may take several hits.
- Verbally confirm that the engine vent is open with either a crewmember in the Engine Room or the facilty's AI.
- Press the eject button.
A new supermatter core can be ordered from the Cargo department to replace the ejected one.
This section details the process of setting up the engine for the first time at the start of the shift.
Many people have developed additions to this procedure which they carry out as standard, but unless you're told otherwise the steps which are listed here are more or less universal.
Setting up the engine cooling system is essential to prevent the engine from overheating.
- There are four phoron canisters in engine gas storage south of the engine core.
- Place a can directly over the hot loop input and cold loop input connectors and wrench them to secure them.
- Turn on the pumps leading from the port and maximize their output.
- Wait until the cans are fully drained (the pump will show that its power use is 0).
- Unwrench the canisters, and add an additional phoron canister to the cold loop connector.
- Configure the omni-filters in the center of the room. North should always be output, you can see which other directions are available by looking at the pipes around the filters. One of the two remaining directions needs to be the input, and the other needs to filter the kind of coolant you are using. Once they are set, turn them on.
- There is currently a bug that causes the omni-filters to fail unexpectedly, causing all hot loop coolant to be flushed into the waste cooler. This will eventually cause the core to overheat and potentially delaminate. Until https://github.com/VOREStation/VOREStation/issues/2021 is resolved, replace the omni filters by unwrenching them and acquiring a gas filter and mirrored gas filter from the pipe dispenser in backup atmospherics, just south of engine gas storage. The normal filters are activated automatically when secured, so quickly change their filtered gas to the intended coolant.
- Turn on the high-power pump near the window west of the connector ports to circulate the cold loop.
- Make sure to maximize the coolants pumps output, or risk damage by overheating.
Engine Waste and Intercooler Loop
After that, go to the north wall of the engine room. You may notice an empty yellow canister connected to a port marked with a yellow dotted outline. Across from it in the northeast corner, there is a connector port for adding gas to the cooler loop, and another just below it for removing gas.
- Connect any type of gas canister to the top port.
- It can be any type of gas. Using the fourth unused phoron canister is generally advised, however.
- Make sure the pump next to this port is turned on and set to max.
Activating the Supermatter
Now that everything is set up, you can start the engine.
- Be sure to wear optical meson scanners and a complete radiation suit if performing this from the engine room, as it involves visual contact with the supermatter crystal.
- Click the 'Engine Monitoring Room Blast Doors' button on the southeast corner of the core chamber to close the shutters between the engine room and Engine Monitoring.
- This step can be performed from the monitoring room, the button is on the bottom center of the table.
- Click the 'Reactor Blast Doors' button just below the first button to open the supermatter chamber blast doors.
- This step can be performed from the monitoring room, the button is on the upper left of the table.
- Click on the emitter and let it fire . Sixteen shots is advisable if you used phoron coolant. Click on it again to stop it from firing. More shots can be fired with minimal risk of overheating, but excessive radiation leaking from the engine room becomes the main concern.
- This step can be performed from the monitoring room. Use the engineering camera monitor to visually ensure that the reactor blast doors are open before firing. The button is on the upper right of the table.
- Close the reactor blast doors.
Setting Up the SMES
There are two SMES units [[[File:SMES.png]] which need to be set up in the Engine SMES room found northeast of the engine room.
- Set up the SMES units to input and output according to your engine output.
- To do this, you need to know your power output, which is displayed on either of the SMES units as 'Input Load'. Alternatively, you can use a multitool on a wire in the engine room and it's reading will be your output.
- The main distribution SMES take power with higher priority than the engine SMES - meaning that if you set input on it higher than the engine's power output, the engine room will eventually run out of power and cooling will stop working.
- From here, you may go to the different Substations around the facilty, and set up those smaller sub-grids (Not required but highly recommended).
- Alternatively, you could use one of the RCON consoles to remotely modify any of the SMES on facilty.
Optimization and Maintenance
The supermatter very, very gradually decreases in heat output after being energized. Additional charging may be needed after several hours if the power production is not enough to charge the APC units across the facilty.
- Check the nearby Power Monitoring computer to see the power output of the 'Engine Output' power network.
- If the SMES units have a solid red light on top, they are not charging. If this is so, you must either increase output or lower the input on other SMES that are drawing from the same network.
Once all APCs around the facilty have been fully charged, power requirements are reduced. If you wish to reduce potential harm caused by electrical shock, output levels can reduced as well.
- Check the 'Master' power network using a power monitering console to see the current power load.
- Adjust the SMES output charge accordingly, with some margin to allow for occasional power spikes as APCs recharge or power-hungry devices such as rechargers are used.
If the core chamber gets too hot, the supermatter crystal will begin to lose stability and delaminate. In such situations, the Engine Monitoring Computer will make an announcement over the engineering radio channel to that effect. If you hear this announcement, hotfoot it to the engine room immediately. Unless there are many other engineers on shift to do it, your first priority is to get the engine under control.
The first thing you should do is try to find the problem which caused the engine temperature to spike. Power failures due to not setting the engine SMES output high enough, or not turning its input from "Off" to "Auto", are surprisingly common. A loss of coolant through filter failure or external chamber breach are also possible sources of overheating. Otherwise, any number of things may be tampered with by a troublemaker to cause things to go awry. Often, simply finding and fixing the problem will cause the engine to stabilise by itself. If, however, the core integrity drops below 50% and you have not found the cause, you urgently need to cool the core if only to give yourself time to find the root of the problem.
There are essentially three things you can do to get the engine temperature down to safe levels while searching for and fixing the source of the problem:
Emergency Cooling Valves are placed below and to the northwest of the TEGs. Opening both valves combines the hot and cold loops, directly connecting the core chamber input and output vents to the main radiator array. This drasticly increases the rate that heat can be removed from the chamber assuming there is any amount of coolant avaialable. Doing this is a solid first move if stability is still dropping and the source of the problem is not readily apparent. Note that while the loops are merged minimal power will be produced from the TEGs, so this is not ideal if the cause of overheating is lack of power to the engine room.
Emergency Coolant Injection is always a stopgap measure, but it can be one that saves your life. Injecting fresh coolant into the engine without getting rid of the current coolant is a quick way to bring the overall chamber temperature back down while you work to resolve the source of the overheating. This is especially effective if Atmospherics have cooled some phoron especially for use as emergency coolant.
Venting and replacing the coolant is a faster, though more wasteful, method of accomplishing the same thing. If core stability drops below 40% and you aren't well on your way to resolving the primary issue, a full replacement of the engine coolant can buy a significant amount of time. Simply vent the engine core and then, once the vent has been closed, inject fresh coolant.
Ejecting the supermatter is the final option and should not be performed unless the situation is fully uncontrolled or a delamination is inevitable. If stability drops below 20% and it seems that you cannot stop the loss of stability regardless of actions taken, you should eject the core as per Procedures above. If there are enough engineers on staff, at least one should be standing by to eject while the others work on other methods of getting the core under control, just in case it becomes necessary.