In a suitably seasonable piece of research, LEGO plastic blocks have been cooled to the lowest temperature, opening up its use in quantum computing.
The researchers at the Lancaster University in the UK used a LEGO figure and four LEGO blocks inside their record-breaking dilution refrigerator.
This machine – specially made at the University – is the most effective refrigerator in the world, capable of reaching 1.6 millidegrees above absolute zero (-273.15 ºC).
The results were published in Scientific Reports. “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,” said Dr Dmitry Zmeev, who led the team. “This is very desirable for construction materials used for the design of future scientific equipment like dilution refrigerators.”
The use of ABS plastic structures, such as LEGO, instead of the solid materials currently in use, means that any future thermal insulator could be produced at a significantly reduced cost. Researchers say the next step is to design and 3D print a new thermal insulator for the next generation of dilution refrigerators.