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New Apple patent would allow touch-sensing surfaces made using Liquidmetal tech

An Apple patent published on Tuesday could potentially be applied to building touch-sensing surfaces, including screens, using material concepts first developed by Liquidmetal Technology.




Originally filed in 2012, the patent describes a way of using "bulk-solidifying amorphous alloys" in substrates and arrays. "Discrete areas of crystalline alloy" could be used to form sense, drive, and/or multi-function circuit elements.

The patent is credited to five people, at least two of whom —Christopher Prest and Joseph Poole —were formerly with Liquidmetal before joining Apple. Years ago a licensing agreement gave Apple access to Liquidmetal's patents, presumably including today's. Another credited inventor though is Steve Zadesky, formerly an iPhone and iPod designer and briefly the head of the "Apple Car" project.

It's not clear how or even if Apple might make use of the patent, at least in any noticeable manner. In fact the company has made very little use of Liquidmetal's technology so far, the only known one being pins for iPhone SIM card trays. In 2013 Apple won a patent on a mass-manufacturing technique, but building larger parts out of Liquidmetal material is likely still difficult in terms of scale and cost, even if it could result in tougher devices.