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Apple developing carbon fibre MacBook or iPad?

Apple could be building a carbon fibre MacBook, iPad or iPhone 5 -- and reports say it's gone so far as to order carbon fibre parts.

Apple could be building a carbon fibre MacBook, iPad or iPhone 5 -- and reports say it's gone so far as to actually order carbon fibre parts.

According to Japanese blog Macotakara, Apple has "commissioned a product sample" made of carbon fibre from an unnamed Japanese supplier. Exactly what the product is remains a mystery, however.

Carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer, also known as carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic, is a composite material that's both very strong and very light. It's used in motor racing, aerospace engineering as well as sporting equipment such as golf clubs or helmets. The combination of low weight and rigid strength makes it ideal for encasing gadgets, but it's still relatively expensive.

Evidence for a carbon fibre future for Apple is piling up. Carbon fibre MacBooks have been rumoured for a few years, with Apple filing a patent in 2010 for gadget casings made from carbon fibre. The company has a number of other related patents pointing to an iPad or laptop made from the woven material.

And Apple last year hired the boss of a company that built custom carbon fibre bikes as a senior composites engineer. It's also currently advertising for a carbon material engineer in Japan.

NEC recently revealed a carbon fibre tablet, the NEC Medias Tab UL N08-D. Only on sale in Japan, the 7-inch slate weighs just 249g -- less than half the weight of the iPad and significantly lighter than both the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7.

Carbon fibre is also used in the super-expensive Vertu Constellation phone, but that's also made from leather and rubies so it's clearly for people with more money than sense. Other laptops built from classy carbon fibre include the Sony Vaio Z series

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