SALT LAKE CITY — Engineers at the University of Utah have designed microscopic mechanical devices that are able to withstand the intense heat and radiation of a nuclear event, the university announced Tuesday.

Researchers say the devices, called logic gates, could be used in the circuitry of robots and computers that are exposed to radiation in space, at damaged nuclear power plants or in the event of a nuclear attack.

Engineering professor Massood Tabib-Azar said the devices have a direct application in situations similar to the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. He said robots were used to control the plant's reactors, but ceased operating after a few hours because of failing electronics.

"We have developed a unique technology that keeps on working in the presence of ionizing radiation to provide computation power for critical defense infrastructures," Tabib-Azar said in a prepared statement.

The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to university officials. A study of the researchers' findings is scheduled to be published in the journal "Sensors and Actuators" later this month.

"Its premiere goal is to keep us ready," Tabib-Azar said. "If there is a nuclear event, we need to be able to have control systems, say for radars, to be working to protect the nation."

The research was conducted by Tabib-Azar as well as doctoral student Faisal Chowdhury and computer engineer Daniel Saab.

Benjamin Wood