NanoMech Unveils Its 'Oscar of Innovation'

NanoMech unveiled its "Oscar of Innovation" Thursday at the University of Arkansas.

The UA startup manufactures nano-based products including TuffTek, the nano-coating that reduces heat resistance and improves precision for cutting tools and for which NanoMech won a prestigious R&D 100 Award earlier this year.

Considered the "Oscars of Innovation," the R&D 100 awards recognize the year's top tech innovations. The R&D 100 plaque unveiled Thursday at the UA's Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering signifies NanoMech's inclusion in R&D Magazine's 2013 list.

NanoMech, with a manufacturing plant and labs in Springdale and offices at the UA's research park in Fayetteville, was founded in 2002 by UA mechanical engineering professor Ajay Malshe. The technology is patented to the UA and licensed to NanoMech, a client firm of Innovate Arkansas and the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority and a portfolio company of VIC Technology Venture Development.

"We maintain an outstanding relationship with the University of Arkansas in technology transfer and commercialization,” said NanoMech CEO Jim Phillips in the release. "The vast majority of our engineers and scientists are University of Arkansas graduates and have trained on the analytical equipment.

"The Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering is a major regional asset to NanoMech as we utilize the vast array of scientific apparatuses and electron microscopes to help advance our technology and industry breakthrough products that increase America’s global manufacturing competitiveness," he said.

NanoMech currently has 35 employees, 80 percent of whom graduated from the UA, and plans to add 10 employees soon.

"NanoMech could not have received this prestigious award without the interdisciplinary, out-of-the-box thinking and tireless work of our world-class team of scientists, including Dr. Wenping Jiang, vice president of manufacturing," Malshe said. "I would also like to thank the teams at the Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering at the University of Arkansas, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions over the years."

Gearhart noted the university's return-on-investment with NanoMech.

"NanoMech presented a check for $375,000 in royalty payments to the university at the dedication of this very building two years ago," Gearhart said at the unveling from the Institute. "NanoMech has gone on to pay the U of A nearly $200,000 in royalty payments since then."

According to the UA, NanoMech’s breakthroughs in nano-materials and manufacturing include the first cubic boron nitride coating for machine tools and advanced nano-engineered lubricants. NanoMech’s products have applications in machining and manufacturing, lubrication and energy, sustainable protective coatings for textiles and other consumer products, strategic military applications and biomedical implant functional coatings.

NanoMech uses the Institute’s scanning electron microscope for surface morphology, cross-sectional analysis and elemental analysis. It uses the Institute’s transmission electron microscope for grain/crystal size analysis and elemental analysis, and its X-ray diffraction allows the firm to determine crystal structures/orientation and for estimating crystalline.

The R&D Top 100 list, which now includes NanoMech's TuffTek, was established in 1963 and has recognized such revolutionary products as the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the Kodak Photo CD (1991) and HDTV (1998).