NSF Awards $225,000 to U of A-Affiliated Technology Company

SurfTec co-founders Samuel Beckford (left) and Min Zou discuss their research in the Nano Mechanics and Tribology Laboratory at the University of Arkansas.
Photo by University Relations

SurfTec co-founders Samuel Beckford (left) and Min Zou discuss their research in the Nano Mechanics and Tribology Laboratory at the University of Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – 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.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Samuel Beckford, chief executive officer
SurfTec LLC
479-263-6922, sam@surftec-engineering.com

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations
479-575-4737, cwbranam@uark.edu

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