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Apple sews up carbon fiber whiz, could lighter devices be in the works?

The aircraft industry is in the midst of a major change from building large passenger airplane structures from metal alloys to building those same structures out of composite materials like carbon fiber. The result? Aircraft that are much lighter (like that Boeing 787 Dreamliner pictured above) but just as strong as those made completely of metal.

Apple might be looking at mimicking the aircraft industry by making future mobile devices out of carbon fiber, as MacStories is reporting that the company has hired a new Senior Composites Engineer by the name of Kevin Keeney.

What makes this so interesting is that Keeney has not only worked with Apple previously, supplying expertise on a carbon fiber shell patent in 2009, but he is the CEO of a company -- Kestrel -- that made waves by creating the first carbon bicycle frame in 1986.

While the idea of thinner, lighter carbon iPad, iPhone and Mac cases might be attractive, there are still technological barriers to be overcome. Carbon fiber doesn't conduct heat as well as aluminum does, and it has other differing characteristics that will affect product design. Keeney's expertise, both in engineering of the material and in supply chain management, will serve Apple well for any products that might be in the works.

The TUAW archives are chock-a-block with rumored carbon fiber Apple products. Back in 2004, we reported on rumors that a carbon fiber G5 PowerBook was in the works. Last fall, initial rumors about the new MacBook Air were speculating that the device would be crafted from carbon fiber for weight savings.

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