Apple is known for its crazy patents, but some of them are much more realistic. On Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company a patent for a special construction process that involves LiquidMetal and sapphire glass displays. The patent approval occurred right after Apple announced that it has exclusive rights to LiquidMetal’s unique alloy until 2015.
In scientific terms, LiquidMetal is a bulk amorphous alloy and is considered an exotic metal. It may look like a metal in liquid form, but it moves like molten plastic. So far, LiquidMetal has only been used to make a SIM card ejector, some military equipment, and medical devices. The technology has been put to the test, but it has never been used to create a consumer smartphone or tablet. Nonetheless, it seems that Apple may have plans to forge its future iPhones and iPads using the LiquidMetal technology.
Apple’s patent describes the new use it has in mind for LiquidMetal and how it will aid in stabilizing the sapphire glass displays in future iDevices. Stabilization is necessary, so that when you inevitably drop your iPhone, the glass doesn’t shatter or simply pop off. Back in 2007, Apple used a plastic chassis and a rubberized gasket to protect the display from sudden impacts. This technology is still used in all other iPhone models up to the iPhone 5S.
The new patent aims to avoid all these annoying in-between steps and go directly from the metal chassis to the display, using LiquidMetal in a new metal injection molding process. That way, Apple can form sapphire glass directly into the iPhone or iPad’s metal bezel. The patent indicates that plastic can also be used, but the emphasis is on the idea of using LiquidMetal to ensure the strongest bond and protection between the glass display and metal chassis.
Clearly, this technology is very cutting edge, but its application is untested in mobile devices, so don’t get too pumped up, thinking LiquidMetal will debut with the iPhone 6 this September (or August, depending on which rumors you believe. Read our roundup here). However, given Apple’s agreement with GT Technologies to manufacture enormous amounts of sapphire glass, it’s probably safe to assume that a sapphire glass display is forthcoming on the long-awaited iPhone 6.