Legos in the Lab | Discover Magazine

On Aug. 5, 2011, the Juno spacecraft blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral and started out its 5-year journey to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar program. The spacecraft carried a mass of scientific equipment designed to establish parameters like the planet’s composition and the total of drinking water current, as effectively as map out its gravity field. Juno also carried some unusual travellers: three tiny Lego figures. They represented the Roman sky and thunder god Jupiter, his spouse Juno, and Galileo Galilei, the scientist who studied Jupiter’s four largest moons in 1610.  

The Lego determine cargo was intended to advertise curiosity in science and cosmology amongst children. Each of the space-touring characters are the identical sizing as usual Lego figures, but they are solid in a “unique space-grade aluminum,” in accordance to Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator. “They have long gone via all the screening to make guaranteed that they match on our spacecraft in a way that is like our other science devices.” 

Sad to say, the Lego travellers will deal with a fiery close. The spacecraft is at this time orbiting Jupiter but it has obtained a rigorous departure day in purchase to get rid of space debris and avoid a collision with a single of Jupiter’s 79 moons — which could cause biological contamination. Therefore, in September 2025, Juno will be intentionally de-orbited by decreasing its pace and crashing into the ambiance of Jupiter, wherever it will burn off up.   

The Lego figures of the Roman god Jupiter, his spouse Juno, and Galileo Galilei manufactured it to space in 2011. (Credit: NASA)

The Lego figures, which traveled around two billion miles from Earth to Jupiter, will meet their destruction in Jupiter’s ambiance. Whatsoever stays of them will probably reside on Jupiter for billions of many years and whip around at hundreds of miles an hour with the planet’s winds.  

Lego components haven’t been minimal to space journeys: The iconic yellow figures have assisted teams from a huge array of scientific fields. For a single, they have participated in experiments in so-known as acoustic time reversal, in which seem waves are centered at a single issue. The technique was made use of by Brigham Youthful researchers to knock about a single Lego determine while other folks remained upright.

Past enabling Lego bowling, centered seem waves could develop noise cancellation by accumulating the seem and focusing it someplace out of earshot. The strategy could also direct seem waves on to kidney stones to break them up, or send audio signals to submarines that are undetectable by enemies. It might even enable you to discuss to a single individual in a group without having other folks hearing. 

In a different study asset, Lego figures can face up to severe chilly. The UK’s Lancaster University’s small-temperature physics group cooled a Lego determine to the coldest temperature on Earth, just a few thousandths of a degree previously mentioned complete zero (minus 459.67 levels Fahrenheit). The Lego determine survived the ordeal, and so did four bricks assembled in a stack. 

What started out off as an amusing experiment brainstormed in a bar yielded some important scientific effects — specifically that the stack of Lego bricks delivered improved thermal insulation than the high priced superior-functionality insulating products usually made use of in small temperature study.  

Legos can endure even the coldest temperature on Earth. (Credit: Josh Chawner, Lancaster University)

Elements with small thermal conductivity aid isolate components to achieve the extremely small temperatures required for this sort of work. When they are clipped alongside one another,  thermal resistance may emerge from the voids involving adjacent blocks and the rather modest spot of call involving them.

In a different instance, MIT engineers are establishing a program constructed completely of Lego bricks to transfer small quantities of liquid. This invention could aid labs work much more effectively by rushing up drug safety screening processes, for instance. And European House Agency scientist Detlef Koschny built Lego styles of the Rosetta space probe and lander to aid visualize and show their features in conferences. 

What tends to make Legos so useful:  Labs use the plastic bricks because they’re manufactured to actual requirements and come in a standard sizing no make any difference wherever they’re purchased. This assures uniformity in equipment around the entire world.  Plus, Lego-dependent equipment can be modular and simply altered for unique experiments. The copyright for the Lego has expired, permitting researchers to make their individual bricks, for instance, from a unique substance. 

The children’s toys in the long run give an limitless array of structures designed from precision-engineered unit components (and charming figures).