updated 12:00 pm EDT, Thu April 30, 2009
Apple carbon fiber patent
Apple may be toying with the notion of introducing carbon fiber into future products, a newly exposed patent application reveals. Carbon fiber is extremely durable, and when mixed with plastic can also result in a very lightweight material. The difficulty, Apple suggests, is that even in many alternative methods of forming a carbon fiber shell, the result is a black surface with visible fibers that can dictate how a product will look.
Apple's proposed solution involves a composite laminate, in which a carbon fiber composite would be enclosed in a scrim of glass fiber. This scrim would partially conceal the underlying fibers, while at the same time taking on properties of the resin used in the molding process, such as color. Using the right resin could therefore generate many aesthetics, not just a woven black.
It is thought that Apple's main interest in carbon fiber revolves around notebooks, specifically the MacBook Air, which is marketed in part on its extremely low weight. Rumors have hinted that the company would like to use carbon for the base of the Air, lowering the computer's weight from approximately 3 pounds to 2.78. A major obstacle is cost, due to the relatively expensive nature of carbon fiber compared to metals and pure plastics.