Liquidmetal is absent from both new iPhone 6 models, but a patent application filed by Apple and a partner suggests that Cupertino is looking for ways to fully incorporate the supposedly indestructible alloy in future iPhones and watches.
The patent, “Methods of melting and introducing amorphous alloy feedstock for casting and processing,” indicates Apple has developed a new process for casting and shaping Liquidmetal.
Apple filed the patent jointly in May with Liquidmetal developer Crucible Intellectual Property in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It covers the unique alloy’s use in phones, computers and watches.
The patent describes a new method of streamlining the process of containing and pouring Liquidmetal, helping to bring the material to mass production. Crucible Intellectual Property is a Liquidmetal Technologies Inc. (OTCBB:LQMT) subsidiary that only deals with Apple.
Liquidmetal contains titanium, aluminum, nickel and copper. Unlike other metals that simply cool down after they are mixed, Liquidmetal is quickly chilled to change the structure of its atoms. Everyday metals, like the aluminum alloy used in the iPhone 6, have a crystalline atomic structure, which makes them more malleable.
Where regular metals bend or dent, Liquidmetal is able to bounce back to its original shape, due to its greater elasticity. It’s also extremely scratch-resistant. In earlier trademarks, Apple has said that Liquidmetal would be suitable as a phone case or replacement for the components underneath iPhone parts like the Home button, which in older iPhones is prone to wearing out.
The Apple Watch and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus aren't thought to contain Liquidmetal, and Apple refuses to respond to questions regarding its manufacturing methods. Whether the gadget maker used Liquidmetal inside the iPhone 6 may be a mystery until the device is reverse engineered.
Apple took some heat when another space age material, sapphire glass, was also absent from the new iPhone 6 models. Sapphire is said to be considerably tougher than alternatives like Corning Inc.’s (NYSE:GLW) Gorilla Glass, but mass production remains a problem.