Apple has acquired an exclusive license to use Liquidmetal’s space-age metal alloys in consumer electronic products, a filing with the SEC reveals.
Developed literally in space by NASA, Liquidmetal’s alloys are super-strong, felxible metals that are incredibly light and flexible, and yet can be cast in factories like plastic.
In the same way that the inventions of steel in the 1800s and plastic in the 1900s sparked revolutions for industry, a new class of amorphous alloys is poised to redefine materials science as we know it in the 21st century.
Welcome to the 3rd Revolution, otherwise known as the era of Liquidmetal alloys, where metals behave similar to plastics but possess more than twice the strength of high-performance titanium.
Liquidmetals belong to the class of “glassy metals,” and have already been used in golf clubs and tennis rackets, as well as CE products like a USB memory stick from SanDisk and a high-end cell phone from Vertu. The U.S. Department of Defense is looking at a range of uses, including replacing uranium-tipped armor piercing munitions with Liquidmetals.
It’s unclear what Apple might do with the Liquidmetal license, but a good guess is for casings in future iPhones, iPods and iPads.
Because of the alloys’ high strength, iPhone and iPad cases could be super thin and very light. They would be scatch-proof and corrosion-resistant.
Plus, they could be molded into intricate and unusual shapes: a property that is sure to appeal to Jonny Ive.
Here’s a good overview of the material and its applications (PDF): New materials have remarkable properties and can be customised.
And the video below shows how watch-maker Omega used Liquidmetal to create a seamless, scracthproof watch bezel.