Tardigrade-Tough Technology for Extreme Environments

September 8, 2020

Tardigrades are micro-animals, ranging from .05 to 1.2 millimeters (.002 to .05 inches) long, known as moss piglets or water bears. They are capable of surviving extreme conditions under which many animals would perish. Sealevel products go through rigorous testing to ensure they, like tardigrades, withstand extremes.

Compact and Tough Tech

When faced with impossible odds, tardigrades shed 99% of their water content and curl into a dry husk called a tun. A tardigrade’s metabolism slows to .01%, and its body creates a sugar called trehalose that forms a glass-like structure around cell membranes, protecting them from destruction. A tardigrade can remain in this armored state for decades.

Sealevel products similarly must armor up to survive extreme environmental conditions. Military technology requires especially durable components against both hackers and physical hazards. Sealevel’s USB to Synchronous Radio Adapter is comprised of robust shielding to protect it from electromagnetic interference. Sealevel’s military laptop docking station underwent rigorous testing to withstand shock and vibration from combat and rough terrain.

Designing for Extreme Conditions

Tardigrades can withstand freezing and boiling temperatures, environments seemingly devoid of oxygen and water, pressure greater than six times the deepest part of the ocean and radiation 1,000 times stronger than would kill a human being.

To survive similar extreme conditions, rugged edge computing requires robust design. Care must be taken in the selection and placement of components to withstand external forces and minimize internal heat generation. Wiring must also be reliable: A faulty connection will negate any component or enclosure advantages.

Such rugged computing guidelines are essential in the oil and gas industry. Sealevel created the Relio R1 industrial computer to survive intense vibrations, shock and heat. The computer dissipates thermal energy with its fin enclosure and can withstand operating temperatures from -40°C to 71°C. Complete with strategic component placement, heat production from the device is minimized, even with a fanless design to minimize moving parts. The Relio R1 Industrial computer won out against competitors in beating the heat in fracking.

The Vacuum of Space

In 2007, tardigrades were sent into orbit and exposed to the vacuum and radiation of space for 10 days. Upon their return, it was discovered many of them survived and even reproduced. Due to a crash landing, some tardigrades are likely still living on the moon.

Like tardigrades, Sealevel has gone to space. Sealevel created a custom 9009 interface for controlling the robotic arm of NASA’s space shuttle. The custom PC card connects to the robotic arm through an external cable, which enables astronauts on the space shuttle to view the arm’s position without needing to suit up to go outside. The interface has been operational since 2000.