It seems Apple could finally be ready to implement more advanced uses of Liquidmetal in new iPhones and iPads. In particular, the super durable alloy may be used in future Home buttons and touch sensors, according to a number of recent patent applications.
The news reached us from MacRumors, which draws attention to several patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last Thursday. The first indicates that pressure sensors, such as the Home button, could benefit from the use of Liquidmetal in future iterations of the iPhone and iPad.
Apple’s patent (pictured above), titled “Bulk Amorphous Alloy Pressure Sensor,” explains:
Because switches on consumer electronic devices are operated frequently, the materials used to fabricate the switch must be capable of repeated deformation and return to their original configuration. […]
A proposed solution according to embodiments herein for pressure sensors is to use bulk-solidifying amorphous alloys as the deformable material, and to measure the pressure based on the physical changes of the bulk-solidifying amorphous alloy as it is deformed.
Given that the Home button is one of the few physical buttons included with our iDevices - and, more importantly, since this button is now more expensive to replace following the inclusion of Touch ID - it’s definitely important the key can withstand frequent use.
One other patent describes how Liquidmetal could equally be used in touch sensors, such as those which feature on our iDevices’ touch screens. Though the process described is complex, Apple concludes in this patent that Liquidmetal could improve touch sensor precision - an area of its iPhone that has previously been criticized.
MacRumors also draws attention to another patent application, which describes the use of Liquidmetal in “tamper-resistant screws.” The strong alloy, used in right way, could prevent unauthorized access to an iDevice’s internals.
Apple explains: “A proposed solution according to embodiments herein for tamper resistance is a fastener having a head portion and a tamper resistant bulk-solidifying amorphous alloy interlock portion, wherein the fastener and the substrate into which the fastener is fitted into are permanently fastened via an interlock formed from the interlock portion during the fastening process.”
Of course, these aren’t the first Liquidmetal patent applications we’ve seen. Back in July 2013, one Apple patent described a process that would allow the Cupertino, Calif. company to mass produce the product, and before this, we heard that Liquidmetal was being used in the iPhone’s SIM card tray.
If these most recent patent applications are anything to go by, however, it looks like further Liquidmetal use is in the pipeline for our future iDevices. Liquidmetal iPhone, anyone?
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