Forget aluminum. In the not-too-distant future you could be carrying around an iPhone made of Liquidmetal. A recently discovered patent suggests that Apple could be experimenting with ways to manufacture a smartphone made entirely of this material, which is twice the strength of titanium. Liquidmetal also enables highly intricate molding capabilities.
Also called metallic glass, Liquidmetal is in a class of metal alloys that has only been used in components and smaller products up until now. For example, you’re likely to find Liquidmetal in devices ranging from gold balls to USB drives and even components in some consumer electronics. The tricky part has been producing larger objects, as stretching the material into larger sheets has caused breakage.
MORE: Top 8 iPhone 5S Rumors
Despite this challenge, rumors of a Liquidmetal iPhone have persisted since Apple struck a deal with the company back in 2010. The patent granted to Crucible Intellectual Property, the company representing the exclusive licensing deal between Apple and Liquidmetal Technologies, describes a range of manufacturing methods to work around production issues. One such embodiment details a plan for creating sheets of metallic glass at a controllable thickness of between 0.1mm and 25mm at a width of up to three meters.
While most of the patent delves into the nitty-gritty details of float glass, alloys and manufacturing procedures, the paperwork does specifically mention an intention for use in gadgets, specifically the iPhone and iPad.
“An electronic device herein can refer to any electronic device known in the art,” the patent reads. “For example, it can be a telephone, such as a cell phone, and a land-line phone, or any communication device, such as a smart phone, for example an iPhone. TM…a portable Web browser (e.g., iPad TM).”
Rumors of Liquidmetal Apple products and concept art illustrating the idea have circulated for years, but Apple has yet to detail any plans for its future products. In spring 2012, one of the inventors behind the Liquidmetal allow Atakan Peker said Apple is likely to use the material in a “breakthrough product.” Our bet is on the iPhone 6.