To master quantum technologies, physical installations are needed that implement the effects of superconductivity, which requires a medium cooled to absolute zero. Providing and maintaining such conditions requires the use of effective insulating materials, so scientists are constantly looking for new solutions in this area. Recently, physicists from Lancaster University (UK) turned their attention ... to LEGO bricks.
LEGO bricks are special, and this is one of the secrets of the popularity of this constructor. Since 1963, they have been made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which combines the qualities of thermoplasticity and durability. In fact, a part can be broken or melted, and then a new one can be cast from the material almost an infinite number of times. LEGO engineers were one of the pioneers in the field of 3D printing, when, through numerous trial and error, they selected the perfect structure for the cubes, formed from the same perfect plastic.
LEGO pieces are strong yet lightweight because they contain a large number of evenly distributed air bubbles. The ratio of mass to volume is negligible, this is a hollow structure with excellent insulating properties, which has been proven in new physical experiments. Scientists made stacks of 3-4 bricks and applied high and low temperatures to the upper part, while the lower one kept stable performance.
Of course, in terms of its capabilities, ABS is inferior to specialized polymers used in cryo-installations, but it also costs several times cheaper. Even more interesting, ABS is highly extruded, and therefore it is easy to make filament for a 3D printer from it, on which new experimental forms for insulators can be printed. It is estimated that one sheet of special Vespel DuPont plastic with an area of 100 cm2. costs the same as the entire ABS plant, which can be reused.