From LEGO Porsche crash-tests to getting hydraulic pressed, LEGOs have been through a lot. They’ve certainly been tested to the extremes but this doesn’t mean that there is no room for crazier stuff.
Apparently, these scientists and part-time LEGO lovers from Lancaster University wondered what would happen if they chilled plastic down to the lowest temperature that their lab could create which happens to be 1.6 millidegrees above absolute zero.
This means that the LEGOs would be 200,000 times colder than room temperature and 2,000 times colder than deep space.
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The team put the unsuspecting toys inside their dilution refrigerator made by Low-Temperature Physicist Dr. Dimitri Zmeev. They were not so sure about how the toys would react; however, a tiny LEGO astronaut and a stack of LEGO bricks were the lucky survivors. Albeit a little bit cold, they held themselves quite well.
This is a fun experiment, to say the least, but it is actually more than that. In low temperatures, the environment becomes rather quiet and subtleties of material physics where quantum mechanics come into play become easier to see. Accordingly, LEGOs' special properties could be useful in the development of quantum computing and open the door to the possibility of discovering new physics.
Moreover, it turns out that LEGO is an incredibly good insulator at low temperatures. Dr. Dmitry Zmeev points this out by saying, “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.”
It seems that this LEGO experiment might be quite handy for scientists who are trying to build the next generation of dilution refrigerators. The use of plastic structures such as LEGOs instead of solid materials means that these insulators could be produced at reduced costs in the future.
You can access the details of the experiment from Scientific Reports.