Several times, in several episodes throughout all of the series, there's a time when someone just rips off their comm badge, or they put one on. There's no pin on it, and it's a seemingly flawless transition of "I put the badge on and it stays." Is it explained anywhere how these stay on with little effort to put them on?


I'd like to see an in-universe answer more, but as stated, I think both in and out would be interesting.

  • 4
    Due to the ambiguity; Could you clarify if you are looking for an in-universe or an out-of-universe answer? (I believe both would be interesting).
    – bitmask
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:03
  • @bitmask: I made the edit. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – PiousVenom
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:05
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    I'd guess some kind of futuristic alternative to Velcro. Aug 19, 2013 at 14:13
  • Memory Alpha is mum on the topic, interestingly enough: en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Combadge Aug 19, 2013 at 14:25
  • In DS9 "Past Tense", Dax is wearing 2024-manufactured clothing which looks like a regular (as 1990s imagined it) suit, but her badge stays on it. She'd have had to make a special effort to achieve that (e.g. special glue instead of e.g. keep it in her pocket) if the below "it's the magnetic uniform" answers are right. Also, in some episodes Jake is wearing civilian clothes and sticks a badge on without prior warning. So tenuously, it's more like "a badge sticks to any clothing if you activate that" (since they don't appear to stick to random things), but without any real explanation how. Apr 27, 2022 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


From http://star-trek.answers.wikia.com/wiki/How_are_combadges_and_rank_pips_attached_to_the_uniform:

They are attached magnetically. The fabric of their uniforms has metallic properties, even though they are not actually metallic. They "resemble" it as far as the physics of the com badges are concerned.

In the Star Fleet Technical Manual (1973), it was referred to as "magnatomic adhesion"

(note: SFTM is not canon but pretty authoritative).

For another non-canon but "authoritative" source, we have GURPS: (TREK - THE UNAUTHORIZED SOURCEBOOK, 2d edition)*

COMMUNICATORS: ... Comm badges can adhere to almost any surface using a magnatomic adhesion area. ... (SECTION 2F - "TREK TECH" - Part 6 - Miscellaneous)

  • 2
    Someone with that affinity for orthography is doubtful as a source of information. Especially when we have to take solely their word for it.
    – bitmask
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:13
  • @bitmask - they are quoting SFTM which is AFAIK an authoritative resource. Aug 19, 2013 at 15:49
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    Sounds more like recollection, not a literal quote from SFTM (otherwise, I'd begin to worry about SFTM). So, without further evidence we have to take their word that this information is genuine (which, to be fair, has nothing to do with spelling and grammar).
    – bitmask
    Aug 19, 2013 at 16:15
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    Corroborating that with other sources constitutes an answer. +2
    – bitmask
    Aug 19, 2013 at 20:46
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    Just to clarify: "Magnatomic" is treknobabble and shouldn't be taken to mean "magnetic". There have been times when a commbadge has been stuck to something other than a starfleet uniform. I can think of think of no canonical explanation of the method of adhesion. It's just some sort of futuristic adhesive. Note though, that it is most likely necessary that either it only sticks to fabric, or pressure must be applied in order for the adhesive to work. Several episodes in the various TNG-era series have shown someone placing a badge on a table, or picking one up from a table, without having to " Aug 25, 2013 at 19:07

out of universe

FWIW, I figured it was magnetic from remembering Data remove his to use as a bet in a poker game when he as stranded in the past. I duplicated it by using Gaf Tape to attach the metal plate to the inside of the ordinary cloth costume. Just clasping it with the plate on the inside (magnet molded into the resin prop) would allow it to fall out if the badge were removed in a scene, or accidently bumped.

(Note: in that scene it did not stick to the table. It appears to home in to the right spot when attached.)

However, mine twists along an axis directly over the magnet. The series production must have used multiple magnets or a rough prickly texture on the backside which was never seen. More likely used pins when the badge was not needed to be removed or attached during the scene: at least after season 2 when shirts were made of normal cloth and were not form-fitting. I never determined how it was done on the spandix uniform: pins or double-stick tape would not work well or even damage the material. So I suppose a thin metal plate that fit (only) behind the badge, and was anti-swivil, was designed to go with the original S1/S2 uniforms. Adding a little tape would permit the apply-or-remove actions we saw.

in universe + hard SF

Rather than a crude ferromagnetic plate as a bulk piece, a patch meant to accept the badge would be fabricated into the cloth. It would be no more mysterious to them than post-it notes are to us.

One time I marvelled at a label attached to a non-stick pan. It was quite strong to peel off but only barely tacky to feel or against ordinary surfaces. I thought the sticky had been spent, and was surprized that it still stuck strongly to teflon.

Clearly you can design to materials to be sticky (only) to each other. Patches of A in an aligned grid would allow B to stick in the intended spot and easily be positioned straight.

Using "molecules" (purpose-specific adhesive) would better fit the stated references, and has advangages advantages over magnets around equipment and in strange conditions.

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