Applied Energistics, created by AlgorithmX2, is a mod that focuses on creating a compact, easily accessible, considerably expandable and extendable storage system called a ME Network. The "ME" in the title stands for "Matter<->Energy" - the premise being that items added to the system are converted into energy and stored in a digital energy form before needing to be used again, whereupon they are converted back into matter.
In addition to providing a potentially attractive solution to storage, the storage network can later be expanded to include the capability to craft recipes-on-demand. A comprehensive automation system may also be added, with the capability to interface with nearly any machine, no matter what mod it belongs to, with basically no limit to the amount of machines that can be added. In addition, this automation system can be used in conjunction with or in place of other automation mods like BuildCraft Pipes, Factorization Routers, Thaumcraft 3's Golems and so on, depending on the player's preferences.
In a basic ME Network, the player needs to supply and connect a ME Controller, a ME Drive (or ME Chest however not recommended as it's not expandable), at least one storage disk (bare minimum being ME 1k Storage, though a few ME 4k Storage disks are recommended) and finally a ME Access Terminal. The player can then arrange the blocks in any way as long as they are touching another AE block. Placing the Storage Disk(s) in the ME Drive or ME Chest will mark the setup operational.
However, this setup on its own won't work without energy. AE blocks and machines accept both EU and MJ. Note, that MJ is worth 2.5 times more power than EU. Which leads to each EU being worth 2 AE power units while each MJ is worth 5 AE power units. The player can see the power needed by the AE setup by right clicking the ME Controller to access its GUI. Individual ME devices do not need independent power sources as long as they remain physically connected to the network. Power for the entire network can be supplied by attaching sufficient power to any AE Block in the network.
NOTE: If the player runs out of energy for any AE setup, accessing any items inside the system is impossible.
This storage system alone may satisfy the player, providing an indispensable solution to organizing the large amounts of items being mined, punched, or otherwise found. Keeping the ME Network simply for storage eliminates the need for large storage rooms filled with chests and saves hours of time wasted on sorting and locating items.
Additionally, a ME Network can fulfill several more roles in a player's base.
The first, most basic addition, is ME Automation. Most of ME Automation is simply managed through the use of ME Import Buses and ME Export Buses that have been connected to the main ME Network, usually via a ME Cable. ME Automation allows processing and networking of machines and ME Storage in both ways, inputting ores for smelting and extracting ingots back to storage or further processing. The Bus interface is a simple, non constricting way of handling problems with automation.
The second addition to the ME Network is the automated crafting, via the multiblock ME Molecular Assembler Chamber, connected to the ME Network with ME Cables, and supplying it with ME Blank Patterns that have been encoded with recipes in a ME Pattern Encoder. These recipes can then be requested to be crafted directly from the ME Access Terminal. Once a craft is requested, if the required items are available in the system, it is automatically crafted. Even more interesting, if the required items do not exist, but the recipes for those items do exist in the system (assuming they have enough materials and any further sub-recipes needed), the system will chain it all together and craft what is necessary to craft the requested item for the player. It is entirely possible to automate the creation of everything, ranging from Levers and Torches to a GraviChestPlate if done properly.
While reaching the full capabilities of a ME Network with ME Crafting and ME Automation is often out of the reach of players until mid or late game, it is very possible to create at least a capable storage system relatively soon after establishing a reliable source of power as long as the player avoids making storage disks larger than the ME 4k Storage as disks larger than this can completely drain player's resources and usually aren't worthwhile until late in the game.
Applied Energistics also adds one new ore to world generation - Quartz Crystal from which AE Tools can be made and is a base component in many of the AE crafting recipes. When the ore is mined, there is also a chance of Quartz Dust being dropped. If more Quartz Dust is desired, it can also be produced by grinding up the Quartz Crystal in player's available grinding machine.
NOTE: Applied Energetics mod versions, released for Minecraft 1.5.0 or greater, due to the addition of Nether Quartz in the vanilla game, all Quartz Crystal will be renamed to Certus Quartz Crystal to differentiate it from the vanilla one.
General Compatibility Edit
As far as general compatibility goes, it is very important to note that connecting the central inventory of the ME Network via ME Cable to a ME Import Buses and ME Export Buses, has the potential to significantly simplify automated activities and projects by providing a central inventory & location for processing to be done.
In addition, setting up new automation orders and attaching new machines may be made easier for some to set up than other automated systems. The usage of the AE Bus GUI, which allows 8 items per bus to be exported or imported, removes the risk of having chest or machine overflow and having items pop out of them as entities in large amounts, since buses work directly with their inventories (Comparable with the Router in Factorization). All of this not only serves to reduce complication on the player's end, but also the impact on the game's performance is negligible.
This ability to automate is not only extended to the traditionally BuildCraft compatible mods like Forestry and Thermal Expansion, but also to machines in IndustrialCraft2, GregTech, MineFactory Reloaded, and more.
While Applied Energistics is able to interact with, store, and move any item the player can hold in the inventory, it is important to note that it currently has no support for liquid storage outside of liquids already stored inside items such as a Wax Capsule, a Refractory Wax Capsule, a Tin Can, a Magic Capsule, a Void Capsule or a Cell. This means that the pipes carrying liquids will not be able to interface directly with the ME Network unless they are first placed in an appropriate container, generally using a Liquid Transposer, and then inserting them into the ME Network.