Tardigrade-Tough Thermal Testing

September 15, 2020

Tardigrades are tiny organisms that can survive extreme conditions. They can withstand freezing temperatures, boiling heat, radiation and chemical exposure.

Extreme Heat & Cold

Extreme heat can evaporate water from the cells of living organisms. But tardigrades can dehydrate themselves, shedding nearly all their bodily water content and going into hibernation for decades. In fact, scientists believe the only true extinction of the species will occur when all water evaporates from the Earth’s surface billions of years from now.

Besides dehydration, extreme heat warps and destroys cells. Yet, tardigrades have survived temperatures up to 151°C (300°F) for at least an hour. Extreme cold also destroys cells. When water freezes, it expands. And when water expands inside a living being, cells break apart. But tardigrades withstand freezing temperatures (up to -200°C or -328°F). Tardigrades even survived being frozen for 30 years.

How do tardigrades survive what most creatures cannot? Tardigrade cells contain a protein called Dsup (Damage suppressor protein), which hasn’t been found in any other animal. This protein binds to chromatin (the DNA inside cells) and forms a protective barrier. Dsup prevents tardigrade cells from breaking down easily under radiation, chemical exposure or extreme temperatures.

Thermal Design & Testing for Rugged Tech

Like tardigrades, Sealevel products must thrive under extreme conditions. Rugged technology design begins in simulation, which helps identify the thermal properties of conceptual components, materials and product shape. Finding the correct product shape helps with air flow and heat dissipation. Efficient, low-heat electronics are ideal components. The right materials can not only radiate heat but also resist shock and vibration. Depending on application, a device might not need to optimize thermal capacity in all three categories.

Once components and materials are chosen, a prototype is created, and component placement and product testing ensue. Components must be placed strategically to avoid hot spot creation from heat generation. The exterior body of the product should be assembled from the fewest pieces possible, which will improve heat conduction and allow energy to escape the system.

The prototype is then tested against a variety of extremes. Vibration tables shake with increasing intensity and speed while shock chambers drop a weighted arm with increasing force and power. Thermal chambers soak a device in an extreme temperature for a set amount of time or fluctuate between extremes. If a device keeps working after undergoing the target thresholds, then it is truly tardigrade tough.

Sealevel designs, produces and tests all our products in-house. We are proud to offer rugged technology that sets the standards.