A world-leading group of ultra-low temperature physicists from Lancaster University decided to place a LEGO figure and four LEGO blocks inside their record-breaking dilution refrigerator.
The team used a special “dilution refrigerator”, which was built specifically for Lancaster. The machine is the most effective refrigerator in the world.
It is capable of reaching 1.6 millidegrees above absolute zero (minus 273.15 Centigrade). This is about 200,000 times colder than room temperature and 2,000 times colder than deep space.
However, the experiment revealed that LEGO actually has some very intriguing thermal properties.
The team froze four stacked bricks and an astronaut Minifigure using the machine. All of the LEGO survived.
The team found that LEGO is actually a really good thermal insulator. This is due to the clamping arrangement between the blocks at these really low cryogenic temperatures.
This is useful for material scientists as most LEGO is made from ABS plastic which is already a stable material for 3D printers. The team concluded that by simply using existing 3D printed ABS techniques it should be “straightforward to create complex cellular geometries with high strength, easy manipulation and low conductivity for use as cryogenic insulation”.
Published as “Chawner, J.M.A., Jones, A.T., Noble, M.T. et al. LEGO® Block Structures as a Sub-Kelvin Thermal Insulator. Sci Rep 9, 19642 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-55616-7″