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This is a lightly-edited version of an article originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 1998

Starship crews, surface teams, military and mercenary units, and those in the civilian sector all have a need to join metals at one time or another. Tanks of fuel and oxygen or arc-welding generators require a good deal of volume and can be quite heavy.

Microfoil addresses this need. Microfoil is made up of a number of extremely thin layers of reactive metals and other chemical compounds selected carefully to ensure a self-propagating, high-temperature exothermic reaction when exposed to a small amount of heat (such as, e.g., the spark from a battery). The temperature is high enough to melt a filler to make a weld. The thinner the layer, the less time the reaction takes, and the less time oxygen has to mix with the metals, so the joints are stronger than those welded with torches or arc-welding equipment. The foil layers are generally between 20 atoms and 2,000 nanometers thick.

Microfoil Cost per Application
TL Cost for Standard Grade Premium for Starship Hull Grade
9 Cr2,000 +25-50%
10 Cr500 +10-25%
11 Cr25 none

Microfoil is introduced at TL9, but it is prohibitively expensive due to the exacting specifications the foils must be made to. At TL10, the production process is refined, but still rather expensive. By TL12, it can be made inexpensively and easily.

Microfoil welding kits will vary in mass and price, due mostly to the availability of the filler metals and the strength of the joints required. Most members of a starship engineering crew, as well as combat engineers and many mechanics will have thick pen-sized “sparkers” to perform on-the-spot welds when required. The foils themselves mass very little , rarely offering less than 1,000 applications per kilogram for starship hull grade.