The brick additionally must not solely maintain its form and maintain that clutch however achieve this over total generations of play, as a result of Brooks says such supplies creep and alter form over time. Standard Lego bricks are examined utilizing excessive and low temperatures, butter, and even faux saliva to ensure they preserve their integrity over a long time of use.
With its new PET brick, nonetheless, Lego has cracked it. Well, practically. “We need to now work on how to slightly tighten the clutch and how to add colors to the brick,” says Brooks. “When we do that, we’ll go through shape by shape and determine how many ABS bricks can be replaced by PET.”
The key right here is, out of the three,500 or so totally different shapes Lego produces, the two x 4 brick is without doubt 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 have what we call ‘high runners,’” says Brooks. For instance, we all know that almost all units may have a 2 x 4, actually we all know just about each set may have a 1 x 1 dot. That is by far the most typical brick that we make.”
“ABS is incredibly stiff. Very stiff, very precise, very hard. PET is less stiff, less hard, and less precise, so that’s why we need to use an impact modifier with PET. That’s what different here. We are using a different grade of PET with an added ‘secret sauce’ that we have a patent pending on. So you’re looking at a PET that we’re modifying to make it perform like ABS.”
Gregg Beckham from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who, in 2018 together with Portsmouth University’s John McGeehan, engineered an enzyme that digests PET, is impressed with Lego’s progress.
“ABS is an amazing material. It is extremely versatile, because you can change the ratio of the A the B and the S. And depending on how you formulate it there are a very large number of versions of ABS plastic that you can make. We literally touch it every day,” Beckham says. “PET, on the other hand, is challenging to formulate in a manner that has the same material properties as ABS like you would find in Lego brick. That is an exceptional polymer science challenge, for sure. This is super exciting.”
As for why it has taken so many decades of plastic production to get to this point, Beckham says that while it would be nice if we could wave a magic wand and just make it happen, in many cases the task is deceptively difficult. “This is fundamental material science and engineering that needs to figure out how to meet the same types of material properties with feedstocks that are either from recycled plastic or become recyclable themselves,” he says. “In the case of ABS bricks, they are neither from recycled plastics nor are they recycled at end of life. This potentially could meet both of those challenges simultaneously.”
There’s another benefit to the new prototype PET brick: It has a 70 percent carbon reduction compared to the virgin ABS material brick.
But, curiously, whereas growing new eco plastics is ongoing, the actual environmental advantages could properly come from growing methods to recycle the stuff we presently can’t. Stuff like ABS. “Laboratory research today is thinking about using advanced recycling approaches that are able to break down the polymers, these long chains of molecules, into their building blocks,” Beckham says. “Then purify those and turn them back into either the same plastic they were at the same virgin-type plastic quality or to open-loop recycle them and turn them into something else that’s of even higher value.”