Apple has apparently recruited an high-profile expert in carbon composite materials which may indicate that the company is looking to move from its aluminum-constructed devices to stronger and lighter casings made from carbon-based materials (via 9to5Mac). The person in question is Kevin Kenney who has spent the last few years working on carbon fiber components for bicycles. Since it is unlikely that Apple will be releasing a bicycle any time soon, one could conclude that Kenney is being recruited for his expertise in composite materials.
Rumors of Apple looking at new composite materials for their mobile devices have been around for a while, although the distinctive aluminum construction of their devices has been a resounding success and it would take a strong design advantage for them to make the change. Reports circulated a couple of months ago that Apple was looking to incorporate carbon composites into the iPad casing, and had in fact gone as far as constructing prototypes of the device with carbon fiber enclosures.
Moving to carbon composite construction from aluminum could provide demonstrable weight and strengh increases over aluminum although it is unclear how this would impact the cost of making enclosures from carbon based materials rather than aluminum.
The aluminum construction that Apple uses for it’s devices is very environmentally friendly contributing to the strong focus on recycling and waste reduction that Apple enthusiastically promotes. While carbon composites can be formed from recycled materials, the safety issue of working with nano-sized materials, such as carbon nanotubes, is a hotly debated area. The toxicological imapct of nanomaterials on both human and other organisms is still, as yet, undetermined and, with such a shift, Apple will no doubt be looking at maintaining their excellent track record in green technologies.
Of note, the last design update to the Apple website changed the color theme from a silver aluminum type appearance to a darker carbon-like appearance, which some had speculated may represent the next generation of Apple products. While this may be reading a little too much into the change, it’s worth a little reminder.
Image via 3dchem.com