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Scientists Are Using Legos To Study Plant Growth

LEGO bricks were the surprisingly simple solution to a lab equipment problem at Iowa State University.

by Beckett Mufson
Jul 3 2014, 9:22pm

The brilliant community of LEGO artisans have done a lot to be proud of in the past couple of years, from the massive model of The Grand Budapest Hotel to the innovative LEGO drum machine. Now, a couple of brick builders have applied their out-of-the-box construction skills to another important realm of inquiry—biology.

Iowa State University assistant professor Ludovico Cademartiri needed a versatile, sturdy structure to study plant growth in, but it also needed to be cheap. He couldn’t splurge on microfluidic technology—which allows researchers to create highly controlled environments—but the greenhouses he could afford weren’t as flexible as he wanted. Cademartiri, was looking for something “transparent, autoclavable, three-dimensional, chemically inert and compatible with existing plant growth experiments,” according to the Iowa State University website. LEGO bricks, it turns out, are all of these things.

The associate professor is passionate about this newfound application for the Danish building blocks. “Forget for a minute that they’re used as toys,” Cademartiri said on the same site. “They’re actually pieces of high-quality plastic, built to extraordinary standards of precision, that you can use to build stuff.”

Cademartiri and his team have already published a paper about root systems contained with their newly established LEGO box technique, and many more are on the way. The world’s bio labs maysee a lot more plastic building blocks in the future. That’s good for scientists’ wallets, but their feet had better check themselves before they wreck themselves.

Images via, via, via,

h/t Science Alert 

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Ludovico Cademartiri