The brick additionally must not solely maintain its form and preserve that clutch however achieve this over complete generations of play, as a result of Brooks says such supplies creep and alter form over time. Normal Lego bricks are examined utilizing excessive and low temperatures, butter, and even faux saliva to verify they preserve their integrity over many years of use.
With its new PET brick, nonetheless, Lego has cracked it. Nicely, practically. “We have to now work on barely tighten the clutch and add colours to the brick,” says Brooks. “Once we try this, we’ll undergo form by form and decide what number of ABS bricks could be changed by PET.”
The important thing right here is, out of the three,500 or so completely different shapes Lego produces, the two x 4 brick is likely one of the hottest it. If the corporate can substitute such a part with a recycled plastic model, it is going to have a major influence of the environmental objective of Lego to be utilizing absolutely sustainable supplies in its merchandise by 2030. “We’ve what we name ‘excessive runners,’” says Brooks. For instance, we all know that the majority units may have a 2 x 4, actually we all know just about each set may have a 1 x 1 dot. That’s by far the commonest brick that we make.”
“ABS is extremely stiff. Very stiff, very exact, very exhausting. PET is much less stiff, much less exhausting, and fewer exact, in order that’s why we have to use an influence modifier with PET. That’s what completely different right here. We’re utilizing a unique grade of PET with an added ‘secret sauce’ that we’ve got a patent pending on. So that you’re a PET that we’re modifying to make it carry out like ABS.”
Gregg Beckham from the US Division of Vitality’s Nationwide Renewable Vitality Laboratory, who, in 2018 together with Portsmouth College’s John McGeehan, engineered an enzyme that digests PET, is impressed with Lego’s progress.
“ABS is an incredible materials. This can be very versatile, as a result of you may change the ratio of the A the B and the S. And relying on the way you formulate it there are a really giant variety of variations of ABS plastic that you would be able to make. We actually contact it day by day,” Beckham says. “PET, however, is difficult to formulate in a fashion that has the identical materials properties as ABS such as you would discover in Lego brick. That’s an distinctive polymer science problem, for certain. That is tremendous thrilling.”
As for why it has taken so many many years of plastic manufacturing to get thus far, Beckham says that whereas it could be good if we may wave a magic wand and simply make it occur, in lots of instances the duty is deceptively tough. “That is elementary materials science and engineering that wants to determine meet the identical forms of materials properties with feedstocks which might be both from recycled plastic or grow to be recyclable themselves,” he says. “Within the case of ABS bricks, they’re neither from recycled plastics nor are they recycled at finish of life. This doubtlessly may meet each of these challenges concurrently.”
There’s one other profit to the brand new prototype PET brick: It has a 70 % carbon discount in comparison with the virgin ABS materials brick.
However, apparently, whereas creating new eco plastics is ongoing, the true environmental advantages could effectively come from creating methods to recycle the stuff we presently can’t. Stuff like ABS. “Laboratory analysis at the moment is considering utilizing superior recycling approaches which might be in a position to break down the polymers, these lengthy chains of molecules, into their constructing blocks,” Beckham says. “Then purify these and switch them again into both the identical plastic they had been on the identical virgin-type plastic high quality or to open-loop recycle them and switch them into one thing else that is of even greater worth.”