SAN FRANCISCO, April 20 (UPI) -- When Apple releases a new iPhone, expected in October, it may use a material called liquidmetal to differentiate the item from its competition, analysts say.
Liquidmetal -- a mix of titanium, nickel, copper and zirconium discovered in 1992 at the California Institute of Technology -- is not actually liquid but is an extremely tough and light material said to feel as smooth as liquid or glass when touched, a quality that earned it its nickname, PC World reported Friday.
Durable, almost as light as plastic, scratch-resistant and smooth to the touch, liquidmetal has already found its way into some consumer electronic devices including flash drives and MP3 players.
It has also found use as jewelry, and in medical devices and sporting goods such as golf clubs.
In 2003 Caltech set up a company, Liquidmetal Technologies, to market the material, and in 2010 Apple purchased worldwide exclusive rights to use liquidmetal in its products for around $20 million.
A liquidmetal case for the iPhone, rather than the various types of plastic used by smartphone competitors, would create a phone more scratch-resistant than current iPhones with their glass back, that would also be lighter and less likely to shatter into pieces if dropped, analysts said.