Date: Thursday, December 10th, 2015, 08:46
Category: Hardware, News, Patents
This could potentially turn into something extremely cool and useful.
An Apple patent application on Thursday suggests a method of portable device weatherproofing that buries sensitive electrical device contacts beneath a layer of self-healing elastomer, allowing connectors to penetrate without leaving lasting aesthetic or structural damage.
The patent, entitled “Electronic device with hidden connector” details a method of protecting electrical device connections commonly exposed to the elements with specialized self-healing elastomeric material. Probes attached to power, data or audio feeds are able to puncture the elastomer, which re-seals itself upon their extraction.
Substrates such as polymerized siloxane have the ability to “heal” themselves after penetration or other structural damage by reforming chemical bonds to regain mechanical properties. The patent application states that an ideal elastomer would be able to regain as least 90 percent of its original tensile strength in the penetration region.
These elastomers could be mixed with other materials to achieve the desired matched color.
In other embodiments, regions of the elastomer in contact with exposed traces are doped with conductive particulates into which the connector probe is inserted. This method provides improved electrical contact and enhanced reliability.
The technique could also be used with connectors, allowing the connectors to pierce the self-healing elastomer as needed.
The elastomer technique could also be applied to the opening of a headphone jack, as well as into its cylindrical housing, thereby protecting it from liquid, dust and other contaminants. The layer or layers of elastomer can be penetrated by a headphone plug, then resealed when the connector is removed.
It remains unclear if Apple intends to implement self-healing elastomers in its product lineup, but the company has been rumored to be working on a weatherproof iPhone. Other smartphone manufacturers have experimented with self-healing materials, the most notable being LG’s Flex, but the requisite characteristics Apple describes are far beyond any contemporary commercial application.
Apple’s self-healing elastomer patent application was fist filed for in June 2014 and credits David I. Nazzaro, Tyler S. Bushnell and Ibuki Kamei as its inventors.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.