UPDATE 17 Aug, 2010: Word is that Apple has dabbled with liquid metal before in a previous iPhone part -- the SIM ejector tool. I've pulled one from one of our old iPhone 3G boxes and found it to be many times stronger than any stainless steel paperclip I have on hand.
Now Apple just needs to implement this metal on more structurally important things, like the iPhone casing or the MacBook Pro unibody.
Apple has secured the rights to an advanced form of metal that could replace the company's use of glass backings in its phones and media players as well as the aluminum casings of its computers.
Liquidmetal Technologies has agreed to give over all the rights to its metal alloy technologies over to Apple for making things relating to electronics.
What's so special about this metal, you ask?
- With approximately 2.5 times the strength of commonly used titanium alloy and 1.5 times the hardness of commonly used stainless steel, Liquidmetal alloys enable sophisticated, engineered designs required by the evolution of new technologies
- Enables thinner, smaller designs while providing greater protection for internal components
- Permits thinner walls while providing greater strength
- Allows larger, wider screens for expanded features and capabilities
- With precision net-shape casting, Liquidmetal alloys can be readily fashioned into intricate, innovative designs resulting in a unique aesthetic advantage
- Excellent durability
- Scratch and corrosion resistant
While the aluminum that Apple uses on its computers right now is lightweight and attractive, it's a still a soft metal that's easily prone to scratches and dents.
Liquidmetal Alloy was developed by a research team at the California Institute of Technology and has been used commercially since 2003 in sporting equipment and electronics such as the Nokia Vertu. It's also employed by the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA.
Apple's agreement with Liquidmetal means that the only electronics and computers using this metal will be from the Cupertino company, though anything outside that will still have access to the alloy technology.