Apple Gets Exclusive License for "Liquidmetal" Alloy
Apple has obtained a license for exclusive use of a new strong, flexible alloy for use in its products, according to a story in the Baltimore Post
picked up by AppleInsider
. The alloy, which is apparently called "Liquidmetal," supposedly has more than twice the strength of titanium, but cools quickly and can be easily molded like plastic. A filing with by the Securities and Exchange Commission
shows that Apple's license gives them exclusive access to Liquidmetal's intellectual property in order to develop products "in the field of consumer electronic products," which means no other electronics manufacturer will be able to use the alloy.
The company compares its invention
of what are called "amorphous alloys" to the introduction of steel in the 1800s and plastic in the 1900s. Based on research done on the Space Shuttle, Liquidmetal scientists developed an exotic mixture of different metals that cooled rapidly to form a super-durable glass called Vitreloy. This material is so strong that a one inch wide bar can lift 300,000 pounds, while to a titanium bar the same size that can only lift 175,000 pounds. However, Vitreloy still cracked like glass, so in 2000, the team developed Liquidmetal, which was just as strong but much tougher, with over three times the flexibility of crystalline metallic alloys. The company is marketing it to sports equipment manufacturers and also to the US Department of Defense, which is working on developing Liquidmetal for defensive armor and also for a new armor-piercing weapon that would replace depleted uranium.
Apple has so far not responded to any request for comment, and there's no way of knowing what use they may have for this exotic metal. Liquidmetal's website
highlights its invention's usefulness for making cases that are thinner and lighter, while being resistant to scratches and rust. It's possible that the alloy may be used for future unibody laptop enclosures, which are now carved out of a single block of aluminum. Liquidmetal, on the other hand can be molded into almost any shape, which would simplify the process and allow for more creative case designs.