Apple’s first Liquidmetal patent relates to fuel cells

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Apple’s first Liquidmetal patent relates to fuel cells

Post by Alpy on Thu 06 Jan 2011, 8:26 am

In August of 2010 Apple managed to score an exclusive license to use the space-age amorphous metal alloy known as Liquidmetal.

Liquidmetal has a lot of potential for use in a range of different market sectors because it has high tensile strength, is very resistant to corrosion, has a very high coefficient of restitution, doesn’t wear easily, is lightweight, and can easily be molded into shapes much like plastic is.

With a license under its belt Apple was expected to put the alloy to good use in new devices such as the iPhone 5. But the first patent Apple has been awarded for the alloy comes as a surprise as it covers using it as part of a fuel cell. Specifically, the Liquidmetal is used as a collector plate acting as a catalyst for the energy generation process in a hydrogen fuel cell.

Liquidmetal’s properties make it a good choice as a fuel cell material, specifically because it doesn’t corrode easily and is very durable. As a fuel cell produces water as a byproduct, and needs to be refilled regularly, both are highly desirable properties in such a system.

While the patent doesn’t allow us to pinpoint a specific product Apple is developing, it does suggest future iDevices may rely on a fuel cell energy source rather than a rechargeable battery. That could mean a month between refills in an iPhone, and at least a couple of weeks of power in an iPad.

Read more at Cult of Mac and the patent filing.

Matthew’s Opinion

Apple have consistently managed to redefine the markets it has entered, or introduce completely new ones over the last several years. Examples include the iPod, iPhone and most recently the iPad.

Could Apple be about to do the same thing in the energy sector? As well as dominating the gadget market, it could revolutionize and have a monopoly on fuel cells used in them.

If that’s on the cards then it could make Apple pretty much unbeatable until other fuel cells reach market. Can you imagine other smartphone manufacturers trying to compete with a 30-day battery life? It just can’t happen.

A fuel cell from Apple could still be years off, but it’s exciting to think that it is being thought about and that one day batteries in iDevices may be a thing of the past.

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