We may yet see Apple products made of a Liquidmetal alloy

We may yet see Apple products make of an alloy from Liquidmetal as evidenced by two newly published patents. Liquidmetal is the commercial name for a series of amorphous metal alloys. It's the brand name as opposed to the actual name of the material.

Also known as Vitreloy, this group of alloys were developed at the California Institute of Technology and have since been marketed by Liquidmetal Technologies. The alloy has high tensile strength, great corrosion resistance, wear resistance and an almost elastic quality allowing a slow release of stored energy.

Liquidmetal logo.jpg

Last year Apple renewed its exclusive rights to use Liquidmetal Technologies’ unique metal alloys in its line of products, according to a document filed with the SEC. In 2010, Apple struck a deal with Liquidmetal Technologies, a California-based company that holds patents on new metal and alloy designs, for essentially access to all of its intellectual property. 

According to the LiqudMetal Tech web site, its alloys are a” revolutionary class of materials that redefines performance and cost paradigms.” The superior properties of Liquidmetal alloys are made possible by revolutionary scientific and technological innovations, the company says.

The allows have an “amorphous” atomic structure, which is unprecedented for structural metals. Also, they include a multi-component chemical composition, which can be optimized for various properties and processes. Finally, they lend themselves to process technology similar to that possessed by plastics.

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,103,009) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a method of "using a core shell pre-alloy structure to make alloys in a controlled manner." Another patent (number 9,101,977) is for "cold chamber die casting of amorphous alloys using cold crucible induction melting techniques."

In the patent filings, Apple notes that amorphous alloys may have a variety of potentially useful properties. In particular, they tend to be stronger than crystalline alloys of similar chemical composition, and they can "sustain larger reversible ('elastic') deformations than crystalline alloys." In other words, at some point, we're likely to see tougher, more flexible Macs, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.