The National Science Foundation has awarded $225,000 to start-up company SurfTec LLC to commercialize its patent-pending technology invented at the University of Arkansas.
SurfTec, a U of A-affiliated company at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, will use the grant to investigate the feasibility of a novel approach that significantly improves wear resistance of polytetrafluoroethylene coatings.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is better known by its trademarked brand name: Teflon. SurfTec will show that its nano-coating technology – a thinner and more durable version of Teflon – will reduce friction and wear in manufacturing equipment, according to company co-founder Samuel Beckford.
Beckford, as a graduate student at the U of A, invented the patent-pending PTFE nanoparticle composite coating with SurfTec co-founder Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering.
Initially, the coating will be tested as a lubricant in ball bearings for electric motors that are frequently washed with caustic cleaning solutions. SurfTec’s product is expected to increase the wear-life of ball bearings by 50 percent compared to grease-lubricated bearings.
“Our research has shown that PTFE nanoparticle composite coatings have exceptionally low friction and durability,” Beckford said. “Historically, the use of Teflon in bearings has been limited due to a poor wear life and low adhesion to bearing components. Our thin, low-friction nanoparticle coating eliminates these weaknesses.”
Beckford, who earned a doctorate in microelectronics-photonics from the U of A, has worked with Zou for the past six years on research related to the proposed coating technology. They have conducted the research in Zou’s Nano Mechanics and Tribology Laboratory in the College of Engineering.
The Phase I grant came through NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, which allows federal agencies to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening small businesses that meet federal research and development needs. The program also is intended to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.