Chronicles of Mervan
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On Mervan, ‘engines’ are alchemical devices which induce currents in the Ether which are channeled through etherically active materials to perform work. The most familiar example of an active substance is amalgam.
Alchemy on Mervan is organized around five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. These elements are similar to physical states and illustrate the pattern of destruction and creation between kinds of matter. When these simultaneously destructive and constructive processes occur, currents in the Ether are produced. Engines work by introducing purified elemental substances into a controlled environment where the energy of these currents can be captured.
There are many types of engines, and designs are usually associated with specific foundries, be they private or nationalized. Most functionally differ only in the elements used.
Acidulated Crystal (Acryst)
An acryst engine use an inactive reaction chamber, such as laminated lignum vitae or rock iron, to house a liquid solution of antiprime. Primary fuel rods of crystalline prime and seed crystals of depositor are introduced into the reaction chamber. The antiprime attacks the prime, destroying it, and deposits elemental depositor onto the seed crystal. Coupling the control rods and seed crystal via an active substance accelerates the process and induces etheric currents in the coupling assembly.
Control of the active coupling’s flow density is very important to the the engine’s stability. Air has almost no specific affinity, whereas active substances like that of the active coupling have very high specific affinities. Overloading the system with too high a flow density will cause overdraw, which the engine responds to in one of two ways: the antiprime overheats and destroys the system by breaching the reaction chamber, or impurities in the active coupling cause heating and eventual failure of the current control system, usually resulting in catasrophic failure.
Vaporous Depositor Screen (Vap)
Similar to an Acryst engine, vaps use a different kind of depositor assembly. A very fine wire array is constructed of amalgam, and then a liquid solution of the despositor element is vapor deposited onto the array. The specifics of the process are kept secret.
The entire array is inserted into the reaction chamber as the depositor seed. The advantage of the system is a higher and more consistent initial etheric current source, as well as a safer failure mode: if the antiprime overheats, the amalgam array melts and fragments, effectively shutting down the current flow. This can be detected and the fuel rods extracted before the engine completely fails. Because of clogging of the depositor array, acryst engines usually run for a sorter period of time before the depositors need to be switched out.
Unfortunately, the depositor array is a sensitive and expensive device. Depending on the design, cross-talk between the wires, induced by warping of the array or inferior materials, can cause a runaway reaction that quickly overloads and detonates the engine as the fuel is consumed in a matter of seconds.
Thin Membrane Salt Exchanger ( Memsalter)
This type of experimental engine use a thin membrane, usually made from cow or other animal stomach and gilt with pounded amalgam, separating two volumes of elemental salts of the antiprime and depositor. The depositor side of the reaction chamber is equipped with injectors that can deliver precise amounts of prime salt solution. When this is done, the antiprime salt draws prime matter through the membrane, generating depositor and an etheric current. This depositor is then reabsorbed through the membrane to the depositor side, generating more current.
In the lab, memsalters perform well. The double action through the membrane produces more current per unit of fuel, and the reaction rate is easily controlled by the prime injectors . However, the machine work involved in producing memsalters makes them prohibitively expensive to produce in the numbers necessary to make them economically viable.