Monday, August 3, 2020

Scientists Make LEGO Cool, Literally at 0 Kelvin

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Researchers are Lancaster University cooled a LEGO brick down to almost absolute zero, or the hypothetical thermal minimum a real object could reach.

For those that don’t know, absolute zero is 0 Kelvin, or about -273 degrees C / -460 degrees F. In other words, it’s a brisk Ohio January day or Hoth at night when Luke would’ve froze to death. That’s cold, but aside from being cold, why make a LEGO one of the coldest objects on earth?

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Image: The crazy device, complete with LEGO, found in the published paper.

Well, researchers were interested in whether LEGO bricks would make a good insulator. As it turns out, the interlocking mechanism that makes them fun (and also dangerous to step on) gives LEGO a good ability to insulate. ABS plastic or something similar could save money on creating new and better insulated devices and save some money. As a bonus, they might be made quickly through 3D printing.

“Our results are significant because we found that the clamping arrangement between the LEGO ® blocks causes the LEGO ® structures to behave as an extremely good thermal insulator at cryogenic temperatures. This is very desirable for construction materials used for the design of future scientific equipment like dilution refrigerators.”

-Dr. Dmitry Zmeev, Lancaster University

The paper is available for free to read at Nature here: LEGO Block Structures as a Sub-Kelvin Thermal Insulator.

Cover image: Josh Chawner (left) and Dmitry Zmeev (right) with cold LEGOs Photo: Lancaster University

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