Apple licenses Liquidmetal for future iPhones, iPads?

The Baltimore Sun has found an SEC filing that shows Apple has broadly licensed the intellectual property of California amorphous alloy maker Liquidmetal, perhaps for use in future iPhone and iPad devices. What's liquid metal?

It's a mimetic poly-alloy that can create bladed weapons--

No, sorry, that's from Terminator.

According to its Website, Liquidmetal is a "leading force in the research, development and commercialization of amorphous metals. [Its] revolutionary class of patented alloys and coatings form the basis of high performance material utilized in a range of military, consumer and industrial products manufactured by Liquidmetal Technologies."

The new metals that Liquidmetal develops offer several benefits in strength, hardness, elasticity, corrosion- and wear-resistance, and acoustical properties.

While this doesn't mean next-generation iPhone or iPad antenna could morph themselves around reception problems, it does show that Apple is continuing to push the boundaries of consumer electronic innovation.

[Baltimore Sun]

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple licenses Liquidmetal for future iPhones, iPads?

17 Comments

Sounds good and all. I just hope that future iPhone releases don't have the same issues as the iPhone 4. Don't read too much into my comment. I have an iPhone 4 and love it. Even posting this comment from it. :)

Even with the issues it's still the best. I just hope they don't update in January. I'd still feel cheated.

This could be similar to how the first iMac's design issues triggered a revolution in plastics. I dont have a link, but I seem to recall Apple did call in outside experts for engineering plastics with the properties they wanted.
When you want optimal function in an optimal form, you discover in some areas they diverge quite harshly. Specifically the function of the hardware (good reception, strong frame, and room for a massive battery) and the function of user interface (small, light, durable, all touchable front panel). YES, Apple is a company that some of what conventional thought considers 'form' as 'function' because how a user approaches it does impact function. Once you can solve the conflicts in those different aspects of function and can actually do most anything you want with the form, you can have the form that functions well for the user... so, to paraphrase Ive, it feels like it's not even designed, because you can't imagine it being any different, and thats how it should always have been. Ive also said that part of design is figuring out how the heck to construct it on a large scale.

Sounds like it might be used in a "liquidometer." Maybe a circuit that measures fluidity to determine gravity and motion. Pretty soon the iphone will swear at you when you drop it, because it knows.

So the antenna on iPhone 5 is going to morph around, and turn your whole lower arm into the antenna?

Does this follow on the rumor in the prior story about the back of the CDMA phone being metal?
Maybe they are giving up on the Glass back and going with something that looks like glass but is really some form of material covered by this acquisition.

"revolutionary class of patented alloys and coatings"
Coatings ... as in something to put on your exposed metal antenna that craps out when it contacts semi conductive human skin.

My iphone 4 arrives tomorrow. I'm paying through the nose but "I wants it". I can't wait to see what they do with liquid metal.
I agree with other comments, Apple are the game changers (I'm not really a Mac diehard BTW). The HTC Desire etc are all pretty smart but this tech always come sup after Apples initial product release, seemingly not before. Besides, the craftsmanship and design always seems superfluous if slightly imperfect (dropped calls, easily scratch casing (of iPod's)).

All I want is something that doesn't scratch. If they can do it with watch crystal. Why cant they do it to my iPhone.

I was hoping that Apple would use that zirconia ceramics electronics enclosure patent they got in 2006. It would be radio transparent, so antennae could be put back inside the enclosure, and it would also be almost totally scratch-proof: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zirconium_dioxide
There may be issues with cost and/or recyclability though. Not sure if you can recycle zirconia ceramics...

This "metal" could be used in between processors as a conductive "fluid" eliminating the need for wires. This would increase the available space inside any device making it easier to allow for things like a bigger battery.