Apple plots 'breakthrough device' based on Liquidmetal

Material unlikely to feature in iPhone 5, but will soon replace glass and plastic

LAST UPDATED AT 14:58 ON Thu 3 May 2012

APPLE could be plotting a spectacular "breakthrough product" based on the mysterious-sounding new material known as Liquidmetal according to one of its inventors, who signed over his discovery to the Cupertino tech giant in 2010.

In an interview with Business Insider, Atakan Peker said that the alloy was already being used to manufacture small components in iPhones, but said that Apple was not yet ready to use the material more widely.

Liquidmetal, which was developed by researchers in California in the early 2000s, is an alloy that combines the characteristics of metal, plastic and glass.

"Plastics are low cost to manufacture into complex shapes but not strong enough. Metals are strong but difficult to produce into complex shapes. And glass feels and looks beautiful but is highly fragile. Liquidmetal can combine these advantages and remedy some of these shortcomings," explained Peker.

The material was becoming popular before Apple bought a "perpetual, exclusive license" to use it in consumer electronic devices. Prior to that, both Samsung and Nokia had employed it in their phones.

Apple is expected to use the material in casings and covers and there have been rumours that it would be used instead of metal and glass in the new range of MacBooks and the iPhone 5.

However, Peker said that it was unlikely that any products planned for the "near term" would contain anything more than a hinge or a bracket made of Liquidmetal.

But when Apple is ready he expects them to make a big impression with the product. He said the decision to licence the alloy was "very exciting" and added: "I expect Apple to use this technology in a breakthrough product. Such a product will likely bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy or duplicate with other material technologies." · 

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