Apple iPhone 5 Gets Tough 'Liquidmetal' Casing
A new report indicates that Apple's next iPhone could be scratch-proof and resistant to damage inflicted from drops and other heavy-handed physical abuse.
The damage-resistant technology is said to be exclusively licensed to Apple for use in consumer electronics, but so far the company hasn't used it widely.
The material is known by the brand name 'Liquidmetal'. It's the result of pioneering work by researchers at the California Institute of Technology. (Source: liquidmetal.com)
Liquidmetal: Similar To Both Glass and Plastic
Liquidmetal is a blend of several different metals thought to include copper, nickel, titanium, and zirconium. Unlike ordinary metals, its atomic structure isn't a consistent pattern. Instead, its structure is more random, giving it some qualities similar to glass.
Liquidmetal's blended composition allows it to combine desirable qualities from several different materials. For example, it has a particularly smooth surface and is very strong, yet it is also comparatively light. It also has some elasticity: solid spheres of Liquidmetal will bounce off the ground.
The component metals of Liquidmetal are blended together under heat in an injection molding process similar to that used in plastics. As a result, it can easily be formed into very detailed shapes, and is already being used in products ranging from golf clubs to watches.
Apple Has Exclusive Rights To Use Liquidmetal in Consumer Electronics
According to Korea IT News, the main casing of the forthcoming iPhone 5 will be made of Liquidmetal. That rumor has some credibility among experts, because Apple's public financial filings reveal the company currently has the exclusive right to use the material in consumer electronics.
That licensing deal is reportedly worth some $50 million.
So far, Apple has used Liquidmetal only for the iPhone tool that ejects the device's SIM card, a relatively small component.
The material could provide the answer to earlier problems using metal covered in glass. While smooth and attractive, ordinary glass has been susceptible to scratches and other damage, and also makes the device heavier. Liquidmetal would look good, resist damage, and save weight.
However, some observers doubt the accuracy of the Korea IT News report. For example, it lists the new iPhone using Liquidmetal as scheduled for a public unveiling at an Apple conference in June, 2012. This seems unlikely, given that the last iPhone (the iPhone 4S) debuted as recently as October, 2011. (Source: appleinsider.com)
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