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Apple patent suggests that a matte black MacBook might become a reality

By Nadeem Sarwar December 4, 2020, 5:42 pm

Okay, so I count myself among the folks who live by the motto of ‘Matte Black Everything.’ From coffee mugs to gaming peripherals, I always stick with a uniform black shade. However, there are a tonne of other devices I would love to buy in black, but they simply don’t come in that shade, with a MacBook clad in black being at the top of the list. However, it appears that Apple is at least toying with the technology that could turn the dreams of a matte black MacBook into reality.

What does the Apple patent say?

A patent filed before the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) indicates that Apple is experimenting with a technique that involves achieving a matte black surface finish on an anodized metallic surface. Titled “ANODIZED PART HAVING A MATTE BLACK APPEARANCE” and first spotted by the folks over at PatentlyApple, the patent talks about imparting light-absorbing features to the surface of a dyed anodized part (or enclosure) that can absorb all light falling on the surface to achieve a black appearance. And by the language used in the patent description, we are likely talking about a portable electronic device that uses an enclosure and has internal components that dissipate heat.

Apple notes that conventional industry techniques used by consumer electronic device manufacturers have failed at achieving a true black color, and the best they could get was a dark grey shade. Talking about one such method that involves an ‘enclosure for a portable electronic device’, the patent mentions “forming an anodized layer that overlays a metal substrate, infusing color particles within pores of the anodized layer, and forming light-absorbing features on an external surface of the anodized layer by etching the external surface.”

More than just eye candy

However, imparting a matte black shade to an electronic device such as a MacBook will have some functional benefits as well, apart from being just eye candy. One of those use case scenarios involves preventing light from reflecting off the camera and using the heat-absorbing properties of the matte black surface for thermal management y cooling the internals from within. Read it for yourself:

  • When an enclosure that is colored black absorbs light, the enclosure can transform the light into heat. Accordingly, implementing the techniques described herein for coloring an anodized layer a true black can cause the enclosure to absorb a greater amount energy and promote cooling from within.
  • In another example, the enclosure of the portable computer 108 can function as a heat dissipater, such as a heatsink, that is colored black to efficiently draw heat and dissipate heat generated by operational components (e.g., battery, processor, etc.) carried within the portable computer 108. 
  • For example, the smartphone 102 can include an internal structure such as a camera housing, where it can be beneficial for the camera housing to have a colored black surface that absorbs generally all visible light such as to prevent and/or minimize reflections of visible light that would otherwise affect an amount of light detected by a sensor of the camera.

As mentioned above, the matte black finished on an anodized enclosure can yield some functional benefits for varied form factors that include both smartphones and computers. But this is a patent we’re talking about here, which means it might not necessarily be used on a large scale for a mass-market device such as a MacBook or an iPhone.

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