How ‘Liquidmetal’ Could Give the Next iPhone Its Special Swagger
Liquidmetal is not just about base metals. A few years ago I got a call from CalTech. They needed gold to use in the liquidmetal experiments. After a brief chat with Boonie, pne of the research students, I arranged to personally deliver the gold and got a tour. I actually got to collaborate with the team on gold alloys. Cool stuff. There is liquidmetal gold and platinum alloys out there, still looking for an application. Amazing technology. People often do not appreciate how metallurgy continues to advance in the internet age.
After releasing two generations of iPhones with exactly the same form factor, Apple is expected to show off a new chassis design — and possibly new materials — in its sixth-generation smartphone. And a little-known alloy that Apple has quietly been using for the past two years could be just the ticket to make consumers swoon.
Korea IT News reported Wednesday that the iPhone 5 is likely to be housed in Liquidmetal, the commercial name for an alloy of titanium, zirconium, nickel, copper and other metals. It would make the outer surface of the phone “smooth like liquid,” according to the report.
“The next iPhone needs to truly stand out from the crowd,” Canalys analyst Chris Jones told Wired via email. “A change in materials is a likely way to differentiate its form factor.”
Liquidmetal was discovered at the California Institute of Technology in 1992. It’s a class of patented amorphous metal alloys (basically metallic glass) with unique properties including high strength, high wear resistance against scratching and denting, and a good strength-to-weight ratio. Apple was granted rights to use it in August of 2010.