Apple May Use Liquidmetal Alloys for Home Buttons, Touch Sensors and More

A number of patent applications highlighted by MacRumors reveal Apple’s plans to use Liquidmetal alloys for Home buttons, touch sensors and tamper-resistant screws in its future iPhone, iPod and iPad devices. Apple currently holds a full license to use all of Liquidmetal Technologies’ intellectual property for commercialization in consumer electronics, the rights for which it acquired in 2010 after testing the material in the iPhone 3G SIM eject tool.

Liquidmetal button

A recent Apple patent application proposes using Liquidmetal alloys in pressure sensors such as those found in buttons and switches on mobile devices, for greater durability. The source points out that the figures accompanying the application closely resemble the Home button found on iOS devices. Another application published last month describes how Liquidmetal alloys could be used as material for “tamper-resistant screws” to help secure devices against unauthorized access. A third patent application addresses the use of Liquidmetal alloys as a substrate for touch sensors found in displays such as in iOS devices.

“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.”

“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.”

“Apple describes how discrete areas of crystallinity can be created on the amorphous metal substrate, allowing for greater control and higher density of touch sensing arrays, thus giving greater positional precision for touch sensing.”

Another related patent by Apple address methods for applying or transforming coatings to an amorphous material, allowing for increased durability and strength by protecting the underlying metal.