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Apple Invents an Infrared Reflective Layer for Apple Device Casings & Displays to keep them Cooler in Sunlight


Earlier this month Patently Apple posted a report titled "Cool: Apple Invents a Dual Display MacBook that a User will be able to use Outdoors with Sunglasses on." Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals yet another kind of transparent layer to be applied to both the display and the iPhone casing to help keep them cooler when out in sunlight.


Apple's Patent Background


When an electronic device, or any other device, is outside or in another environment in which infrared light is present, the electronic device may absorb thermal radiation (e.g., heat). Although infrared reflecting or absorbing layers and coatings exist, these layers or coatings are typically pigmented and, as a result, have a particular hue and opacity. Thus, if these layers or coatings are applied to an electronic device, the overall aesthetic look of the electronic device may change. In addition, these pigmented layers have a limited ability to reflect light and thermal radiation and in some cases, these layers or coatings absorb heat from the infrared light.


In other implementations, a physical vapor deposition (PVD) process may be used to deposit an infrared reflecting and/or absorbing thin film layer on a surface. However, this process is expensive and difficult to implement.


Apple's proposed solution involves a transparent infrared reflective layer or coating that may be applied to one or more surfaces of an electronic device. For example, the infrared reflective layer may be applied to any surface of the electronic device to help prevent the electronic device from absorbing thermal radiation or heat from infrared light.


A method for coating a component of an electronic device with an infrared reflective layer is also discussed in Apple's patent filing. According to this method, a group of polymeric structures is suspended in a liquid. Each polymeric structure in the group of polymeric structures has a defined inner diameter and a defined outer diameter. The liquid containing the polymeric structures is applied to a surface of the component. Once the liquid is applied to the component, the liquid is evaporated thereby creating an infrared reflective layer or coating on the surface of the component of the electronic device.


The infrared reflective layer may be applied to a housing of the electronic device, a cover glass or other display component of the electronic device and so on. In other implementations, the infrared reflective layer may be applied to one or more electronic components of the electronic device, such as, for example, an infrared cut-off filter, a sensor and the like.


The infrared reflective layer typically includes a first transparent or effectively transparent material that is suspended or otherwise arranged in a second transparent or effectively transparent material. More specifically, the first transparent material may include a group of photonic crystals (or a photonic crystal structure) that are arranged, sized and spaced from each other in order to reflect infrared light.


Due to the size, spacing and arrangement of the photonic crystals within the infrared reflective layer, infrared light and thermal radiation is reflected from the layer while visible light is permitted to pass through.


For example, in some implementations, the photonic crystals are arranged in a three-dimensional array or cubic lattice. The periodic nature of the array or the lattice affects the amount of infrared light that is reflected. Thus, the better the alignment of the photonic crystals within the infrared reflective layer, the more effective the infrared reflective layer will be.


2AF X99 FIGS 1, 2A,B & 3

Lastly, Apple notes that although an iPhone is displayed in the patent filing, the infrared reflective layer described may be used in a variety of electronic devices including, but not limited to, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watch and other wearables.


Apple's patent application 20170052292 was filed back in Q3 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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