iPhone 5: Liquidmetal Inventor Says Don't Expect New Alloy in Next Apple Phone - Why?

By Alexandra Burlacu | May 07, 2012 11:23 AM EDT

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The rumor mill is incessantly churning in anticipation of the next-generation iPhone, and a completely redesigned iPhone 5 with a Liquidmetal body is among the most notable rumors. According to the Liquidmetal inventor, however, the chances of a Liquidmetal iPhone are slim.

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In an interview with Business Insider, Dr. Atakan Peker, who discovered and developed the material, said that Apple is likely a long way from actually using the alloy in large scale projects. There is "no suitable manufacturing infrastructure yet to take full advantage of the alloy technology," Peker said. According to him, the technology "has yet to be matured and perfected both in manufacturing process and application development," and it would cost Apple quite a fortune. "I estimate that Apple will likely spend on the order of $300 million to $500 million - and three to five years - to mature the technology before it can be used in large scale," he told Business Insider.

There are also slim chances that Apple will use the Liquidmetal technology for other products such as the Macbook, but it may use it to produce other small components such as hinges and brackets. Apple already uses Liquidmetal for the iPhone's SIM eject tool. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has an exclusive license for the technology, and rumors indicate it may play some part in the next-generation iPhone.

What is Liquidmetal?

According to Peker, Liquidmetal "is super strong, scratch and corrosion resistant, resilient and can be precision cast into complex shapes." Such characteristics make Liquidmetal an ideal material for device components such as casing and frames, because it is very strong. "Liquidmetal is the trade name for a new class of metallic alloys. The alloys have a unique atomic structure, more like glass, and are commonly known as 'bulk metallic glasses' or 'bulk amorphous alloys'," explained Peker.

He suggested that Apple will likely utilize the material to replace existing components, until it will employ it in a "breakthrough product" that will "bring an innovative user interface and industrial design together, and will also be very difficult to copy and duplicate with other material technologies."

On the other hand, Peker's claims seem to contradict an announcement from Liquidmetal itself. In March, the company announced it had started shipping commercial parts to several customers. "Parts delivery began this past December with continuing shipments scheduled for the months ahead," read the press release. Could the sixth-generation iPhone be that "breakthrough product" Peker was talking about?

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Dave Clark)


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