Unveiling their experiment in a video for the upcoming Google Science Fair, a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has revealed that they worked with LEGO for the production of fake bone.
According to the team, LEGO Mindstorm cranes formed crucial tools in their process to develop synthetic bone as an alternative to bone grafts.
“To make the bone-like substance you take a sample, then you dip it into one beaker of calcium and protein, then rinse it in some water and dip in into another beaker of phosphate and protein—you have to do it over and over and over again to build up the compound,” explained Daniel Strange, a PhD Engineering student who works on the project.
Thus, the team constructed two programmable cranes from a LEGO Mindstorm Kit to repeat the delicate dipping action for days.
As a cheap, simple robot, the LEGO Cranes will, once told what do to, “do the same thing very precisely over and over again, so a day later I can come back and see a fully made sample,” said Strange.
According to Physorg, LEGO Mindstorms “contain microprocessors, motors, and sensors that can be programmed to perform basic tasks on repeat,” making it ideal for the repetitive lightweight process.
The team added that their work is generating “considerable interest” due to the low energy costs and improved similarity to the tissues they are intended to replace.
“A lot of the things we use around the lab are household items—so our LEGO robots just fit in with that mindset,” said Dr. Michelle Oyen.