Memory Alpha

Warp drive is a technology that allows space travel by distorting the fabric of space to propel a vessel to velocities that exceed the speed of light. These velocities are referred to as warp factors.

In a starship warp engine, high-energy plasma, created by a matter-antimatter reaction, is pumped through a series of "warp coils" cast from an artificial material called verterium cortenide. Verterium cortenide provides a bridge between electromagnetic and gravitational forces. By design, it has the property that when a high-energy plasma circulates through appropriately fashioned verterium cortenide castings, a "warp field" is generated.

A single mathematical formulation unifies all four fundamental forces in nature: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Since gravity is simply one manifestation of a single general force, it is possible to manipulate gravitational forces through the application of electromagnetic forces. This gives the capability to control the geometry of space with electromagnetic forces and the verterium cortenide warp coils are the medium through which electromagnetic forces are used to alter the geometry of space.

Electromagnetic interactions between waves of superhot plasma and the verterium cortenide coils change the geometry of space surrounding the engine nacelles. In the process, a multilayered wave of warped space is created and as the space-time around the starship is moving, the starship cruises off on this distortion to its next destination at hundreds of times the speed of light (relative to normal space). Within the warp field, however, the starship does not exceed the local speed of light and, therefore, does not violate the principal tenet of special relativity.