Thermoacidophilic archaea belonging to the order Sulfolobales thrive in extreme biotopes, such as sulfuric hot springs and ore deposits. These microorganisms have been model systems for understanding life in extreme environments, as well as for probing the evolution of both molecular genetic processes and central metabolic pathways. Thermoacidophiles, such as the Sulfolobales, use typical microbial responses to persist in hot acid (e.g. motility, stress response, biofilm formation), albeit with some unusual twists. They also exhibit unique physiological features, including iron and sulfur chemolithoautotrophy, that differentiate them from much of the microbial world. Although first discovered more than 50 years ago, it was not until recently that genome sequence data and facile genetic tools have been developed for species in the Sulfolobales. These advances have not only opened up ways to further the probe novel features of these microbes, but have also paved the way for potential biotechnological applications. Discussed here are the nuances of the thermoacidophilic lifestyle of the Sulfolobales, including their evolutionary placement, cell biology, survival strategies, genetic tools, metabolic processes, and physiological attributes together with how these characteristics make thermoacidophiles ideal platforms for specialized industrial processes.