LEGO ® research among top 16 physics papers worldwide in 2019

The LEGO ® figure and block used in the experiment
The LEGO ® figure and block used in the experiment

Lancaster research which cooled LEGO ® to the lowest temperature ever for the first time has been ranked as one of the top 16 physics papers in 2019 by Springer Nature publications.

The experiment revealed that the special properties of the toy means it could be useful in the development of quantum computing.

The article published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports has been listed among their "2019 Highlights: Top research that made an impact" which is a selection of the most popular articles published by Springer Nature last year.

The researchers led by Dr Dmitry Zmeev from the Ultralow Temperature Physics group said: “We are delighted our research has made such an impact with both the research community and the public. Working on this project has been great fun and it is wonderful to receive this recognition from Springer Nature.”

The Lancaster research was reported by media across the globe, in over 30 languages covering 60 countries, following a media campaign to highlight the unusual experiment, which involved placing a LEGO ® figure and four LEGO ® blocks inside the 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 (minus 273.15 Centigrade), which is about 200,000 times colder than room temperature and 2,000 times colder than deep space.

The results of the experiment unexpectedly revealed that clamping arrangement between the LEGO ® blocks caused the LEGO ® structures to behave as an extremely good thermal insulator at cryogenic temperatures.

This could potentially be used for construction materials in the design of future scientific equipment like dilution refrigerators, which are at the centre of a global multi-billion dollar industry and are crucial to the development of quantum computers.

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.

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