Material Focus: Amorphous Alloys

 

Your Apple product will eventually be made of an amorphous metal- Vitreloy. This is a member of a strange family of alloys called amorphous metals, otherwise known as liquidmetals. Amorphous alloys are metals that do not have a crystalline structure (if you have ever seen a broken piece of cast iron I’m sure you probably noticed the dull, gray crystalline structure) but they instead have a liquid/glass like composition. These amorphous metal alloys are much stronger than their crystalline metal counterparts, so parts can be lighter.

Liquid Technologies, inc is a spinoff of a long Caltech/NASA/DOE research project into amorphous metals. While Vitreloy has been commercially available since 2003, it is relatively expensive and we have not yet seen widespread use of the material- but that may change soon- Liquid Technologies granted Apple an exclusive license to use their alloys for consumer electronics last year.

An amazing thing about liquidmetals is that once formed, they can be reheated and molded- while retaining their amorphous, non-crystalline structure. In my mind I compare this to glass- once sand, etc becomes glass, the glass can be remelted, cool, and it is still glass- it doesn’t become sand again. So, liquidmetals can be diecast, injection molded, etc. Here is an article in Nature News, another in Plastics Today, and one more.

 

So, watch for the Ipad3 or 4 to have a Vitreloy frame. For you bicycle riders out there, amorphous metals will be playing their part soon.

If you get a wild inclination to be a penny stock investor, Liquid Technologies is trading at 16 cents a share, search “LQMT.OB.”

 

 

 

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Ten Hairdryers

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Carbon Nanotube Speaker

This little speaker is made of carbon nanotubes, and it functions as a thermoacoustic speaker. Whats kind of amazing is, unlike a conventional speaker, it doesn’t have to move to make sound. This speaker makes sound by way of abrupt temperature changes that pressurize the air, sending pressure waves (sound) without actually moving. So, look forward to one day walking through the trade show and picking up a promotional wind-breaker that will play a jingle. Wall paper as our surround sound. Maybe we can even have sound canceling blinds for the city sleeper. The nanotube & graphene era will be an interesting time. This particular speaker is made by the Finnish company, Canatu. Canatu, among others, is working towards commercializing this technology.

 

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