Fayetteville Startup Awarded $225,000 Grant to Test Coating

Fayetteville Startup Awarded $225,000 Grant to Test Coating
SurfTec co-founders Samuel Beckford (left) and Min Zou discuss their research in the Nano Mechanics and Tribology Laboratory at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. (University Relations)

University of Arkansas-affiliated startup SurfTec LLC of Fayetteville announced Tuesday that it received a $225,000 National Science Foundation grant to commercialize a nano-coating technology designed to reduce friction and wear on manufacturing equipment.

The company is located at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park.

A patent is pending on the technology, invented by SurfTec co-founder and CEO Samuel Beckford, a graduate student, and co-founder Min Zou, professor of mechanical engineering.

"It feels good," Beckford told Arkansas Business. "We're excited about it."

The grant will be used to investigate improvements to the wear resistance of polytetrafluoroethylene (better known as Teflon) coatings.

The coating that Beckford and Zou have been working on for six years will be tested as a lubricant in ball bearings for electric motors that are frequently washed with caustic cleaning solutions, according to a news release.

The product is expected to increase the wear life of ball bearings by 50 percent compared to grease-lubricated bearings.

Beckford said the company wants the coating to replace oils and grease used in electric motors that have to be sanitized with chemicals. He said the coating SurfTec developed is anti-corrosive, more reliable and will allow equipment to perform better.

"Historically, the use of Teflon in bearings has been limited due to a poor wear life and low adhesion to bearing components," Beckford said. "Our thin, low-friction nanoparticle coating eliminates these weaknesses."

The Phase I grant came through the NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, which aims to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.

Beckford said the work funded by this grant began July 1 and the timeline for the testing project is one year. The company plans to apply for a Phase II grant in January. That grant would help SurfTec push the product to market, he said.