Apple invents Cool Adaptive Metal Surfaces that allow Device Housings to Shape Shift and open Micro Heat Vents
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple relating to a new concept of using adaptive surfaces in future Macs and iDevices that will intelligently open micro vents when overheating.
Apple notes that electronic devices such as mobile phones, portable music players, smart watches, tablet computers, laptop computers, desktop computers, televisions, and servers are provided with electronic components disposed within a housing. Rigid housings typically provide mechanical support for the device and protection for the internal electronic components. However, challenges can arise when attempting to provide thermal management and desired structural features with a single rigid housing.
Apple's invention covers electronic devices that are provided with a housing having an adaptive surface. The adaptive surfaces are deformable from a first configuration to at least a second configuration responsive to a temperature change such as a temperature change caused by heat generated by an electronic component within the housing, or responsive to a mechanical strain on the surface.
For example, heat from a processor within the device housing can cause direct thermal expansion of an adaptive surface formed from a shape-memory material, or can cause indirect thermal expansion of the adaptive surface via thermal expansion of a support structure for the adaptive surface in a first direction that causes a mechanical expansion of the adaptive surface in the first direction. The indirect thermal expansion of the adaptive surface in the first direction can, in turn, cause the deformation in at least a second direction.
The adaptive surface can be formed from multiple materials having different coefficients of thermal expansion or can be formed from a negative Poisson's ratio relief pattern formed in the surface.
The adaptive surface may be formed from a shape memory material that holds the second configuration until the temperature of the adaptive surface falls below a threshold, and then returns to the first configuration in a bi-stable manner.
In other implementations, the adaptive surface can smoothly deform between the first and second configurations in connection with temperature changes (e.g., a temperature rise or a temperature fall) at or near the surface and/or in connection with a mechanical strain on the surface.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1A below we're able to see a MacBook with the lid surface smooth and cool. In FIG. 1B we're able to see that the heat of the MacBook has risen to a point where the "adaptable surface" begins to shift and openings are created to allow the heat to escape. Once the MacBook is cooled off, the adaptable surface returns to a smoother finish.
Apple's patent FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate the same thing but in a more dramatic fashion for you to see what occurs when overheating is at a maximum.
Apple notes for FIG. 8 that a notebook's portion #108 may be formed from a shape memory material (e.g., a shape memory polymer or a shape memory metal alloy such as nickel titanium).
As shown in FIG. 8, each panel #702 has a triangular shape in which each of three corner regions #800 of the panel is connected to a corresponding corner region of a single other triangular panel at or near a common tip #802 for the connected panels.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 also shows that openings #704 have formed by the expansion of gaps between adjacent sides of opposing ones of the triangular panels, such that each opening includes three triangular wings #830.
Apple's patent application 201901046545 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
The two inventors of this invention are Timothy Johnson, Product Design Analysis – Managing Engineer; and Sabrina Paseman, Product Design Engineer.
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