A group of researchers from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom decided to experiment with LEGO parts to test their effectiveness at low temperature energy transfer. The objective was to investigate alternatives to expensive industrial plastic materials, capable of operating at very low temperatures, for others that are an effective and cheaper alternative.
In the experiment, the researchers stacked four LEGO blocks and reduced their temperature to zero. The blocks were placed in a special refrigeration chamber capable of heat absorption by mixing two helium isotopes to generate ultra-cold temperatures. The base part of the nested blocks was mixed while the top part was heated and a thermometer was also placed on top.
According to scientific document published in Nature, the blocks were exposed to an environment with temperatures between 70 millikelvin and 1.8 kelvin, which is colder than the vacuum of space. At zero Kelvin there is no heat and is equivalent to -273.15 degrees celsius.
The top piece that was heated did not change the temperature of the base block. Calculating the thermal properties of the blocks, scientists concluded that LEGO parts formed an effective insulator at very low temperatures, outperforming expensive industrial plastics used in this type of solution. These materials are used, for example, in space component radiation shields or supports in dilution refrigerators, the researchers report.
The explanation lies not only in the type of materials used by LEGO in the construction of the blocks, but also in its interlocking system that creates vacuums that minimize physical contact between parts, which reduces the spread of heat.