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Ten fun things you did not know about Lego

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Chemical expert and father of three Aaron Lee is one of millions of people who have homes filled with one of the most iconic and creative toys ever created – LEGO.

Yet there’s more to this household brand than little plastic bricks which litter the floor, providing obstacles for parents everywhere!

As a chemist with specialist knowledge of distribution, importing, exporting and supply chain, Aaron knows how important chemicals are in every aspect of our lives and toys are no exception.

As International LEGO Day approaches (Sunday 28 January) he shares ten facts you might not know about this everyday toy.

“LEGO is one of the most iconic brands ever,” Aaron, who lives in Oxfordshire, said.

“People don’t tend to associate toys or even LEGO with chemicals yet its very existence relies upon certain substances. Even though the company was started in the early 1930s and the ‘bricks’ were originally made of wood, the plastic bricks were introduced in the late 1940s and that mix of chemicals has developed over time to create the huge brand and the vast variety of sets which are available today.”

Here are his favourite facts about LEGO:

  • LEGO means ‘play well’ and comes from the Danish words ‘Leg Godt’ and, of course, LEGO was created in Denmark.
  • The first LEGO patent was registered on January 28 1958 – 66 years ago and this is why this date is chosen as International LEGO Day. It was registered by Godtfred Kirk Christiansen son of the founder Ole Kirk Christiansen. Today the company is run by Neils B Christiansen.
  • Every person on earth owns, on average, 80 LEGO bricks.
  • Modern LEGO bricks are made from ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) through injection moulding ie. ABS pellets are heated until they melt into the mould to create the bricks.
  • ABS is really stable, resistant to acids and alkalis and this gives it a long life span. It is also a natural flame retardant though it’s likely more is added for super safety.
  • LEGO is the biggest producer of tyres globally, around 700 million per year, made of a thermoplastic elastomer which ensures they have some ‘bend’ in them. The tyres are, of course, small!
  • Extreme cold can impact the chemistry – which can lead to bricks becoming brittle.
  • The most common LEGO character in sets is Batman.
  • The most expensive LEGO character is valued at around $200,000 and is the 14-carat solid gold C3PO – five were made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. None were sold they were given away in competitions.

Last year, the most expensive LEGO set available to buy was the LEGO Space Command Centre priced at more than $10,000.

Aaron said: “Something we all take for granted – especially if we have children who like to ‘make’ things – like LEGO is fascinating for its simplicity, ingenuity and the company’s ability to move with the times and to mirror popular culture.

“There is ongoing research into nanotechnology to create new types of LEGO-like building blocks at a molecular level, combining principles of chemistry, engineering, and physics.”** 

*Meet chemical specialist Aaron Lee with some of his children’s LEGO! He’s pictured with his eldest son Henry.


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