An Analysis of Protodermis

1st Update (2/18/21): Added more details to section 2.1 and a new section on crystalline protodermis.
2nd Update (2/27/21): Added more details to section 2.1 and 3.2, as well as a new section on organic protodermis.

Introduction

Protodermis is a synthetic atomic element.[1][2] It is also very versatile,[3] similar (but not identical) to carbon.[4] It is able to form molecules,[5] but it is unclear whether the molecules used in the Matoran Universe are actually compounds (consisting of multiple elements). It is not nanotechnology.[6][7] Protodermis, being an element not discovered or synthesized in real life, must have an atomic number higher than 118. Beyond this, we do not have enough information in canon to make general statements on protodermis, but we can further investigate specific forms of it. Because energized protodermis is not required at all in the creation of protodermis[8][9] and the Great Beings created protodermis before even discovering it,[10] it will be considered a distinct substance and not included in this analysis. What will also be left out is the creation process of protodermis and how antidermis is a byproduct of it.

1: Metallic Protodermis

Toa of Magnetism can affect all forms of metallic protodermis, but cannot magnetize substances that were not already magnetic.[11][12] This means metallic protodermis is ferromagnetic. It can be affected by magnetic fields[13] and even be turned into permanent magnets but is not naturally so.[14][15] This is also how Gahlok-Kal was able to magnetize (the metallic parts of) several Mahi to Pohatu Nuva (Bohrok-Kal Online Animations).

Metallic protodermis can also rust, including Protosteel,[16] but the only known instance of natural rust is the Vahi from being in the Silver Sea.(“Chapter 1.” Time Trap, p. 10) Because metallic protodermis and liquid protodermis are simply different states of the same molecule (see section 2), the likely source of the oxidation is from the rock-like protodermis sediment in the raw liquid protodermis (see section 2.1).

1.1: Protosteel

Protosteel is the toughest variety of metallic protodermis, but what is important is that it can conduct electricity.[17] It probably is not an alloy, but rather a differently crafted form of metallic protodermis, along with other ‘precious metals,’[18] transparent masks,[19] and copper masks of victory.[20][21] Since the strength of the metal depends on how well it was forged,[22] this would explain why protosteel is hard to work with[23] and only Artakha and Nynrah Ghosts, both exceptional at crafting, can do so.[24] If the difference in quality for metallic protodermis is simply in how it was crafted, which most likely was not a chemical process but a physical one, then it can be assumed that the conductive property of protosteel is shared by all other forms of metallic protodermis since they are the same chemically. What all this implies is that metallic protodermis molecules have free electrons.

2: Liquid Protodermis

Pure liquid protodermis was magnetized to be used in chutes on Metru Nui (Metru Nui - City of Legends, p. 61). This means it is also a ferromagnetic metal, implying that it is the liquid form of metallic protodermis, evident from the fact that molten protodermis, which is liquid protodermis that has been heated,[25] could be returned to the Silver Sea (Metru Nui - City of Legends, p. 8).

At first, this would seem universe breaking, as Toa of Magnetism/Iron should be able to control it as well, thus rendering Toa of Water useless, but this is not true. Toa of Water are capable of creating and controlling not just liquid protodermis, but also actual water,[26] as well as using their power to heal.[27] While Toa of Magnetism could theoretically control liquid or molten protodermis, they cannot create it,[28] and Toa of Iron cannot control it in the same way Toa of Ice cannot control water,[29][30] even though water and ice are both the exact same compound.

The only way liquid and molten protodermis can both exist is if metallic protodermis’ boiling point is high enough where molten protodermis does not evaporate. Gaseous protodermis does exist,[31] as it is the clouds above Metru Nui.[32] This means metallic protodermis has a ‘water’ cycle.

2.1: Liquid Protodermis Purification

The purification process of liquid protodermis involved rapid heating and cooling (Metru Nui - City of Legends, p. 8) and a separation tank (Toa Nokama CD-ROM), but what exactly it was separating is not given. The impurities of liquid protodermis were the same as any other substance.[33] To compare to liquid protodermis, the impurities found in actual water are suspended solids, mostly from sediment. It seems likely that the raw liquid protodermis contained sediment of solid rock-like protodermis and metallic protodermis, which is not purified.[34] The Silver Sea is confirmed to have some sort of sediment in the form of “mud and silt” (“Chapter 1.” Time Trap, p. 9). The 2004 Story Bible states that “the Ga-Matoran cleanse marine sediments containing protodermis.” This also explains why raw liquid protodermis had a metallic coloration, which it lost and became bluish or clear after being purified (“Protodermis Purification.” Encyclopedia Updated, p. 116). The separation tank would remove the rock-like protodermis, while heating the liquid protodermis to become molten would cause the solid metallic protodermis in the liquid to also become molten, so that when it was cooled, the liquid protodermis would be homogeneous. The rapid cooling of the molten protodermis was very likely supercooling, which can cool the liquid below it’s ‘freezing’ point without it becoming solid. Despite the name, the temperature to supercool liquid protodermis was likely not that low, as metallic protodermis exists as a solid at room temperature.

3: Crystalline Protodermis

There are two main forms of crystalline protodermis: frozen and crystal.[35] This does not include protodermis cages, as those are more like rock-like solid protodermis than crystalline.[36]

3.1: Frozen Protodermis

Frozen protodermis is liquid protodermis that has been frozen[37] and is not stronger than regular ice.[38] If what has already been concluded is true, that metallic protodermis is the solid state of liquid protodermis, frozen and metallic protodermis should be identical, but this is not the case. What makes a substance ‘crystalline’ is the arrangement of its atoms being in a crystal lattice structure. This implies that metallic protodermis is non-crystalline, also called amorphous.

3.2: Crystal Protodermis

The most notable instance of crystal protodermis is that created by The Shadowed One’s staff. However, it is likely that lightstones and heatstones, which are related to lightstones ( “Heatstone.” Encyclopedia Updated, p. 43.), are also this form of protodermis.[39] The difference would be that TSO’s crystals do not give off light or heat.

While frozen and crystal protodermis are different, crystal protodermis does seem to still have a connection to liquid protodermis. Lightstones can be refined, which not only dims them (“Lightstone.” Encyclopedia Updated, p. 79), but also turns their color from yellow to bluish-white.[40] It is unknown if the refining process is similar to the liquid protodermis purification process, but it is probably no coincidence that both turn protodermis the same color. According to BS01, Knowledge Towers are also grown from cradles of pure liquid protodermis.

4: Organic Protodermis

Organic protodermis is by far the most difficult form of protodermis to understand due to its complexity. There have also been some contradictions surrounding it. Greg has offered different answers on whether organic protodermis has a cellular structure.[41][42] However, microorganisms possibly exist, which would imply cells.[43] Organic protodermis does not have DNA or a genetic equivalent,[44][45][46][47][48][49] despite Greg stating otherwise later on.[50][51]

Conclusion

This analysis is not meant to be exhaustive, as there are still many unanswered questions about protodermis, and they may never be answered. What this analysis does is provide an introductory theory for at least certain aspects of protodermis.

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Huh, I didn’t know this. I thought that protodermis was created in an attempt to replicate Energized Protodermis.

My thoughts on this (and on protodermis in general) is that nothing in the Matoran Universe is truly pure elemental protodermis, but rather protodermis compounds with other “real” elements.

For example, maybe metallic protodermis is an alloy between copper and protodermis, while the stronger Protosteel is an iron-protodermis combination. (Similar to how “Earth steel” is a combination between iron and carbon)

Following this line of thinking, “rock” protodermis would be a combination of protodermis and other minerals, and liquid protodermis would be a solution of regular water and protodermis.

This theory would explain the vast difference in physical properties between different forms of protodermis; the properties are coming from the other elements, rather than the protodermis. In this case, elemental protodermis doesn’t even have to be a metal at all. This is supported by the fact that Toa of Iron can’t just control anything with protodermis in it.

But, most importantly, this would also explain how Toa are able to control non-protodermis versions of their element.

I’ve gone into this idea before, as well:

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The problem with this is that, while (as you mentioned) it could explain how Toa can control non-protodermic versions of their elements, it’s not entirely true. Toa can control them but cannot create them like they can protodermis.[1] It also doesn’t hold for the reverse because Glatorian and Elemental Lords cannot create or control protodermic based versions of their elements,[2][3][4] which, if various forms of protodermis were compounds consisting of non-protodermic elements, they should be able to.

This is something that’s worth considering with respect to its use in-universe: an individual Protodermis atom would have a very high atomic mass. Ergo, it’d need to have an extremely low density to be as massive as any real metal–meaning Protodermic submarines probably aren’t possible. Either that, or Protodermis is just reeeaaally heavy.

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For starters, your source for this only seems to apply to Toa of Iron.

But even if we apply it to all Toa, I don’t quite see what the problem is. I don’t see any contradiction with saying that Toa can control Elements both with and without protodermis in them, but they can only create them with protodermis.

Same goes for the Element Lords and Elemental Glatorian. It doesn’t really seem like a plot hole to say that they can only control “pure” versions of their element.

I see the Elemental control given to the Toa as a kind of upgraded version of the Elemental control given to the Element Lords, and the protodermic elements are upgraded versions of the Elements.

This can actually be compared really well to backwards compatibility in software. I’ll use Microsoft Excel as an example, where Excel is the Elemental wielders, and the files are the elements.

If I upgrade Excel, I can still open old files (Toa controlling non-protodermic Elements), but the old version can’t open the new files (Element Lords being unable to control protodermic Elements). Additionally, if I create a new file with the upgraded version, it will be the new type of file (Toa only creating protodermic Elements).

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The quote is about Toa of Iron specifically, but if they can’t create non-protodermic versions of their element, why assume Toa of other elements can?

I didn’t mean to say it was contradictory with itself, only that it would seem to contradict the idea that various forms of protodermis are compounds with other elements. The elements created by Toa seem to be pure protodermis, which would be the forms used within the MU.

Depends on the details of your theory. For example, the EL of Iron would be able to control actual copper, Cu. However, if your theory is correct, that metallic protodermis is an alloy of protodermis and copper, there would have to be a reason as to why the EL can no longer control the copper that has now bonded with protodermis.

I still don’t see what the contradiction is here. The statement that you says doesn’t contradict itself includes the theory that Elements in the Matoran Universe are protodermis compounds, yet you say it contradicts the theory.

My theory says Elements in the MU are protodermis compounds. Toa can control these compounds, as well as the non-protodermis versions. When Toa create their Elements, it is the protodermis version.

Where’s the contradiction?

Since Toa have the “new” version of elemental control, they can control the “old” and “new” versions of elements. Since Element Lords were made with the “old” version of elemental control, they can only control the “old” version of their elements.

Your theory says that the various forms of protodermis in the MU are compounds also consisting of other atomic elements that are not protodermis. So, if Toa cannot create non-protodermic elements, how can they create the forms of protodermis that contain non-protodermic elements?

There isn’t “old” and “new”. There are the periodic elements we know of in real life (iron, copper, etc.) and protodermis. Your theory says that:

An alloy in the literal sense is a mixture, not a compound. The difference is that the metals used in the alloy could be physically separated with no chemical reaction, and so, in your example, copper would still exist in the metallic protodermis, and should be able to be controlled by the EL of Iron, but this is not the case. Your Excel analogy doesn’t explain how this could be.

Ah, I see what you’re getting at now.

I’m not necessarily saying that it’s physically impossible for Toa to produce non-protodermis atoms, just that they always produce them alongside protodermis atoms. From the Great Being’s perspective, why would you design a Toa to be able to produce non-protodermis versions of their Element?

An automated assembly line doesn’t sometimes produce a car and sometimes just produce the chassis; it has the mechanical capability to produce just a chassis, but that’s not how it was built and programmed.

It’s for the same reason that a Toa of Water can’t just control mud because it’s a mixture of water and earth.

Except Onua can work with mud despite it being mixed with water.[1] The best explanation I have for this is that Onua is only controlling the earth content of the mixture, and the water just happens to get dragged along with it. The same idea would arise with metallic protodermis, if it were an alloy with copper. The EL of Iron would be able to control the copper mixed into the metallic protodermis, and the pure protodermis would just be dragged along, but again, the EL in actuality cannot do this.

If such reasoning was absolute, then Gali could control the water in the mud and the earth would get dragged along, but that isn’t the case.

The reality that we seem to have stumbled upon is that some mixtures can be controlled by just one of their components, while others can’t.

From what I’ve seen, there’s nothing that would absolutely disprove a claim that metallic protodermis is a mixture that cannot just be controlled by it’s metal alone.

(Of course, there’s also nothing to absolutely prove it, but that’s why this is a theory.)

Depends on how much of each there is in the mixture of mud. If it were more earth than water, Onua would have a better time controlling it than Gali would. Inversely, I have no doubt Gali could control salt water. Onua or Pohatu could probably control the salt in it because its a mineral, but when there’s so little of it and so much more water, it would be incredibly hard to do so.

As I initially stated in the OP, there is nothing confirming or denying that the various forms of protodermis are compunds of other periodic elements, but in your explanation of metallic protodermis being a mixture of copper, there would have to be very little copper in it for the EL of Iron to not be able to control it, possibly to the point that its even negligible.

Do you have a source for that?

Mud has a pretty high water content, but Gali still can’t control it.

A source for what, specifically?

Maybe mud here on Earth does, but the quote that said Onua can control it was specifically about the Karda Nui swamp, so the mud in the swamp could have less water in it than expected.

I want a source for this claim:

How do you know that the Element Lord of Iron would be able to control, say, a 50-50 copper-protodermis mixture?

(Keep in mind, this Element Lord is entirely theoretical, since the Iron Tribe was wiped out before the time of the Element Lords)

As far as I know, we have never seen a confirmed instance of protodermis mixed with other non-protodermic substances, and even if there were, we haven’t seen a Glatorian or EL control that mixture, so the point should be moot. However, you theorize that metallic protodermis is a mixture of pure protodermis and non-protodermis metal. Just as Onua can control mud (a mixture of earth and water), its not a leap in logic to assume the EL of Iron would be able to control it, but it can’t. This would imply metallic protodermis would have to be purely protodermis and no other elements.

And it doesn’t matter if the EL of Iron is only hypothetical, since Greg confirmed that if it were to exist, it wouldn’t be able to control metallic protodermis, just as he confirmed the other ELs cannot control protodermic based forms of their respective elements either.

I theorize that metallic protodermis is a mixture of pure protodermis and non-protodermis metal. Just as Gali cannot control mud (a mixture of earth and water), its not a leap in logic to assume the EL of Iron wouldn’t be able to control metallic protodermis, which is confirmed by canon. This would imply metallic protodermis is a mixture of protodermis and other elements.

Again, it goes both ways. Control of a mixture is not a uniform rule.

Right, it’s not, which is what I explained here:

Which is why that, even if the EL of Iron could control a mixture of metal and protodermis, there would have to be a small enough amount of non-protodermis metal so that the EL of Iron cannot control metallic protodermis, and at that point, we might as well say it’s pure protodermis.

Again, I need a source for this.

I could just as easily say that the Element Lord requires a susbstance to be mostly non-protodermis to be able to control it, and therefore could not control a 51-49 protodermis-copper mixture. I certainly wouldn’t consider that to be pure protodermis.

Even if there was a definite answer for such a specific hypothetical (which there isn’t), you really don’t. It could easily be argued from logic alone. We know that the EL of Iron would be able to control any and all metals that are not protodermic. This means that as long as some amount of metal exists somewhere, the EL can control it. However, when it comes to mixtures, it does depend on how much metal there is in the mixture.

A rough analogy could be a book you want to lift, but its underneath a 100 kg weight (and to lift the book, you have to lift both the book and the weight together). You could easily lift the book on its own, but when its underneath the 100 kg weight, which you can’t lift, its harder to do so.
Onua could easily control Earth on its own, but when its mixed with water, which he can’t control, its harder do so.
The EL of Iron could easily control non-protodermic metal on its own, but when its mixed with protodermis, which he can’t control, its harder do so.

What if instead of a 100 kg weight, it were 50? Then 10? 5? It would become easier to lift it and the book together because the total mass percentage becomes less of the weight and more of the book. That represents the mixture becoming less of what the EL can’t control (protodermis) and more of what it can (non-protodermic metals), which is what I meant when I said Onua can control mud, while Gali can control salt water. Both are mixtures of water and earth/stone, but by largely varying degrees, which determines what Toa can control it easier.

All we know for certain is that the EL of Iron would not be able to control metallic protodermis. So, even if your theory that it is an alloy is correct, there would have to be far more protodermis than not, just as there’s far more water than salt in salt water. Again, if there’s that little amount of non-protodermic metal in metallic protodermis, to the point that could be negligible, we might as well say that metallic protodermis is pure protodermis.

(Btw, a very easy way to negate the entire mixture argument is to say that protodermis is actually a chemical compound with other elements, not just an alloy, so its possible the chemical change alters it enough that Glatorian and ELs can’t control it, but if you insist it’s an alloy, that’s your call.)