Updated Mon, Apr 19, 2010 by Space Junkie
Alchemy is a complicated process that combines two materials in order to make small quantities of a more valuable substance. Explaining it to an unfamiliar reader is going to take a little bit of work, so please bear with me as I take you through it. Also, be aware that this is an expensive project, moreso than basic moon mining. There is more at risk here than investing in a battlecruiser blueprint and, though the profits are appropriately higher, this will not be for everybody.
In short, alchemy is a special process that takes basic moon materials and combines them to make small quantities of a more valuable material, and also returns a small portion of the ingredients as a byproduct. The process takes place at a "POS" and essentially represents an alternative way to produce high-end materials, that are further reacted and eventually used to make advanced materials for tech two ships and modules.
In a previous article, I dealt with a tutorial of how to set up POSes and anchor structures there to be used. If you are unfamiliar with how POSes function, please read that article first.
In an alchemy reaction, a POS runs a Silo containing one ingredient, and a second silo that contains a second ingredient. These are then combined in a Simple Reactor Array that contains the alchemy reaction blueprint. The reactor produces an unrefined version of the product into a third silo. That product is then taken to a station and refined, resulting in a small quantity of the desired product, and a larger amount of one of the ingredients, as a byproduct that may be re-used.
Instead of a silo, it is possible to substitute a Moon Harvester for one or both of the ingredient inputs, assuming that the moon contains the correct materials. If a decent moon is available, it is possible that this may be the best way to profit from it, rather than selling the raw mined materials on the market.
Note that the Unrefined Fluxed Condensates reaction is an exception to the general rule, and does not produce a byproduct.
An industrialist decides that he wants to make Dysporite. He sets up a medium Gallente Control Tower, and anchors three silos and a simple reactor array. He puts the Unrefined Dysporite Reaction blueprint into the reactor array and puts it online. This particular reaction requires 100 Cadmium and 100 Mercury per hour, so he fills one silo with Cadmium, and a second silo with Mercury. These silos are then connected to the reactor, and the final silo set up to receive the Unrefined Dysporite that will be produced.
Voila, everything is in place. Each hour, the reactor takes 100 Cadmium and 100 Mercury out of their respective silos, and puts a single unit of Unrefined Dysporite into the third silo. The unrefined product may be removed to a station, where a character with good skills will be able to refine it into 40 Dysporite and 95 Mercury (less station refining taxes). The Dysporite can then be removed to Jita for sale, and the Mercury re-used at the POS.
The process may be expressed as follows: 100 Cadmium + 100 Mercury --> 40 Dysporite + 95 Mercury.
The History Of Alchemy
Alchemy was introduced by CCP in the midst of a period of great market inflation, when it seemed likely that a single coalition could conceivably gain control of the majority of Dysprosium and Promethium moons in the game. Until the recent Dominion expansion, these two moons were the key to making any tech two goods. Before Dominion, the price of these two moon materials determined the price of t2 ships, modules, ammunition, and various other goods. They were an unavoidable bottleneck in the production chain, subject to market manipulation, the whims of nullsec alliance leaders, and vulnerable to monopolies.
Unlike earlier cartels on certain tech two goods, that occurred before CCP introduced invention to bypass the tech two blueprint holders, a near monopoly on those two moons would affect every single tech two module and ship in the game. Eventually, this might even make tech two goods inaccessible to large portions of the game.
Thus, before it happened, CCP acted and introduced alternative means of producing the goods that Promethium and Dysprosium were used to make. Alternative ways to make other, less rare materials were introduced as well, to act as a hedge against a similar thing happening to them.
With the Dominion patch, tech two goods are less prone to bottlenecks amongst advanced materials. Alchemy receives a buff to the amount of products, however, keeping certain kinds of Alchemy very profitable, indeed.
Normal Reactions Vs. Alchemy
Normal moon material reactions combine equal amounts of two moon materials into a product, called an intermediate material. That product is then reacted with other materials to make advanced materials. These can then be used with blueprints to make tech two components. Those can then be used with invention blueprint copies to make tech two modules and ships.
The process of running a reaction requires several POS, and is difficult to understand even for advanced players. Because maintaining multiple POS is so labor-intensive, entire corporations can be based around producing a single advanced material, and the reactions involved with it. Many reaction ingredients are so expensive when bought in Jita that reacting them occurs at a loss, unless a moon containing an expensive ingredient is available to be mined, rather than purchased. Sound complicated and unpleasant? It is. I stay away from reactions.
In contrast, Alchemy only involves two ingredients. Because most alchemical reactions yield a large amount of byproducts, it is very easy to buy the cheaper ingredient and re-use it, if a decent moon is available. Maintaining a single POS is easy enough for a single casual player to handle, and is a wonderful source of passive income because the reaction takes place whether you are logged in or not, so long as the POS is fueled and the ingredients are available.