All Federation starships were equipped with Bussard collectors, which were positioned in the best line of sight to collect interstellar particles. Collection worked best in regions where particle density was high, such as in solar systems or nebulae.
In 2374, Seven of Nine determined that the collectors of an Intrepid-class starship were less than optimal. She performed a series of modifications that enhanced them by twenty-three percent. (VOY: "Unforgettable")
A Bussard collector could also be reconfigured to expel gases or plasma. (TNG: "Samaritan Snare") Bussard collectors were not capable of producing nadion emissions. (VOY: "The Haunting of Deck Twelve") The Tosk variation of the Bussard collector was known as the arva node. (DS9: "Captive Pursuit")
In 2365, the USS Enterprise-D's collectors were used to create a harmless pyrotechnic display against the Pakleds to recover Lieutenant Geordi La Forge by igniting released hydrogen. This event came to be known as a crimson force field. (TNG: "Samaritan Snare")
In 2373, USS Voyager's collectors were used to gather the sirillium from a class 17 nebula. It was described that they would "cut through that nebula like ice cream scoops." (VOY: "Flashback") They were modified to gather plasma particles from an astral eddy. (VOY: "Real Life")
In 2375, Commander William T. Riker used the USS Enterprise-E's collectors to gather, and then vent, metreon gas against attacking Son'a vessels, a maneuver which Commander La Forge nicknamed the Riker Maneuver. (Star Trek: Insurrection)