Coating Developed for Wear Resistance
An Arkansas startup has won a National Science Foundation grant meant to help it bring its patent-pending coating technology to market.
Company co-founders Samuel Beckford and Min Zou say they will use the grant to investigate the feasibility of an approach that significantly improves wear resistance of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coatings.
The technology, according to the firm’s website, uses “exceptionally thin” PTFE coatings “in applications that are traditionally off-limits for fluoropolymer coatings due to wear, operating conditions or decomposition of conventional resin binders.”
The pair invented the nanocoating technology at the University of Arkansas, where Zou is professor of mechanical engineering. Beckford was pursuing graduate studies there at the time and has since earned a doctorate in microelectronics-photonics.
Extending Wear Life
SurfTec intends to demonstrate that its PTFE nanoparticle composite coating technology—described as a thinner and more durable version of Teflon, which is the trademarked brand name of PTFE—will reduce friction and wear in manufacturing equipment, Beckford says.
Initial testing will apply the coating as a lubricant to ball bearings in electric motors that are frequently washed with caustic cleaning solutions.
Beckford and Zou anticipate their product—the fruition of six years of research—will increase the wear life of ball bearings by 50 percent compared to grease-lubricated bearings, they say.
“Our research has shown that PTFE nanoparticle composite coatings have exceptionally low friction and durability,” Beckford says.
“Historically, the use of Teflon in bearings has been limited due to a poor wear life and low adhesion to bearing components,” he adds. “Our thin, low-friction nanoparticle coating eliminates these weaknesses.”
Beckford told business news source Arkansas Business that he would like to see their coating replace the oils and grease currently used in electric motors that must be sanitized with chemicals.
In addition to being anti-corrosive, he claims the SurfTec coating is more reliable and should enable equipment to perform better.
According to the website, the coating can be applied by a simple, low-cost dip method; is self-lubricating; is hydrophobic and thus reduces sensitivity to moisture during storage and operation; and is nonconductive, which prevents fluting from contact with electrical currents.
NSF Grant Program
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.