Liquidmetal - the ultimate bicycle frame material?

by cat1commuter   April 23, 2012  

I've been reading about Liquidmetal at their (no doubt) hype filled website. I came across it mentioned as a possible material for the case of a future Apple iPhone, but they do actually mention bicycles, so it maybe isn't totally out of question. It does sound like a very interesting material. It is an amorphous metal alloy, and it is claimed that you can cast it in intricate shapes without the inferior mechanical properties that cast metal usually has compared to wrought and forged parts. Amorphous means that, like glass and unlike metals, it doesn't have a crystal structure. Junctions between crystals are where defects can form, which is where cracks develop and cause the structure to fail. I imagine that you might be able to cast a frame, like Kirk Precision frames were meant to be. The ability to cast frames ought to help lower production costs, though I have no idea how great the challenges would be to make a successful production process. I imagine it could beat carbon fibre both in terms of weight, and the complexity of forms which could be created.

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All I can think of when I hear 'liquid metal' is the T-1000 from Terminator 2. If they can bring out a bike that can shape shift at will then I am up for it. You could genuinely have one bike for all purposes. One minute you could be out on a sleek road bike, next minute you can throw it off road as you've changed it into a mountain bike.

Nipping to the shops? Just ride the bike down without any locks, turn it into a battered old bin and then when you come out, have it turned into a Christiana style cargo bike to lug all your shopping home.

Yes, I'd definitely by one of those.

posted by farrell [1401 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 15:07

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It does mention it under the applications - sport bitty, at the bottom

Liquidmetal potential applications include:

Bicycles

Would be interesting to see a frame build from it

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posted by Gkam84 [8825 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 16:27

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farrell you are living in dreamworld....mind you if it had a gatling gun Thinking next time you get squeezed, cut up, generally pissed off Devil "Go ahead punk" whoops wrong film Devil "Hasta la vista baby" except no one gets hurt A Team style... Have I been watching too much telly?

posted by SideBurn [787 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 17:47

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I found a longer article at Discover Magazine. Seems there's only two major problems: price and catastrophic shear failure.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1335 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 18:15

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The article at Discover Magazine is interesting in that the defence industry is pursuing the possibility of producing ammunition from the process. If its successful we may see it in other manufacturing too. Until then, it is a distant possibility.

posted by petejuk [25 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 19:03

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I think the cost angle is significant, Apple tested the material out with the US iPhone4, the SIM release key is made from it, but only for the US market. Manufacturing with it is expensive too from what I've read. I suspect bike frames will come from this, but not until the volume manufacturing can deliver it in affordable amounts. It's probably $100,000 for enough of it to make a frame now... plus the moulds and finishing

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

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posted by zzgavin [208 posts]
24th April 2012 - 9:26

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cat1commuter wrote:
... catastrophic shear failure.

Never heard the term before - but it does NOT sound good!

posted by mad_scot_rider [546 posts]
24th April 2012 - 9:46

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mad_scot_rider wrote:
cat1commuter wrote:
... catastrophic shear failure.

Never heard the term before - but it does NOT sound good!

It is not. It is the failure mode of things like glass, cast iron or concrete. Most metals would fail gracefully - bending before they break.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1335 posts]
24th April 2012 - 16:22

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Here is an example of catastrophic shear failure in cycling terms taken from a google search

FileItem-102711-image004.jpg FileItem-102715-image009.jpg
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posted by Gkam84 [8825 posts]
24th April 2012 - 17:37

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