UARF’s Spark Fund announces the completion of third successful project


The lab of Dr. Gary Doll, Timken Professor of Surface Engineering, successfully completed the prototyping and testing of three new coating technologies that combat corrosion, abrasion and wear of metal parts, using $70,000 in funding provided by the University of Akron Research Foundation’s (UARF) Spark Fund. Doll, an internationally recognized expert on surface coatings, developed the coatings to meet identified industry needs, including increasing the survivability of components in the event of a loss of lubrication, eliminating a wear mode known as false brinelling, and increasing component life.

The technologies work by first increasing the strength of titanium alloys, thereby enabling the materials to adequately support friction and wear reducing coatings. Improvements in the mechanical properties of titanium materials were key to avoiding the “eggshell effect,” which is used to describe what happens when a load is applied to a hard coating on a soft substrate. This innovation allows titanium alloys to be used instead of heavier steel alloys where weight reduction in mechanical systems is desirable. This can enable higher efficiency and more corrosion-resistant mechanical systems. 

Less energy consumption

“This will impact people’s lives by enabling engineers to select stronger, yet lighter materials for machine elements,” said Doll. “These lighter weight components will consume less energy during usage and will not suffer the types of corrosion that steel alloys experience.”

For many years, researchers have been trying to produce a wear and corrosion resistant coating for steel. “We thought, ‘Why not create a wear resistant surface for a material that is already resistant to corrosion?’” This coating technology solves the “eggshell effect” seen by lightweight materials, such as titanium, while retaining corrosion resistance.

The expected customers for the new coating technologies are companies in the manufacturing, oil and gas, medical and transportation industries that have stated problems with wear and corrosion that require costly replacement and lost revenue for downtime. Using Spark Fund support, Doll’s team evaluated and optimized coatings for customer specified needs and applications, coated test articles that were then tested by customers for performance, and coated full-size customer parts.

After the completion of the Spark Fund project, UARF licensed all three technologies to Akron-based startup company, Akron Surface Technologies Inc., which will bring the technologies to market. 

UA’s Spark Fund

This marks the successful completion of the third of six projects funded by UARF’s Spark Fund starting in 2017. UARF’s Spark Fund provides resources and support to develop the proof needed to transform UA technology into a validated prototype that can be licensed to a scalable startup company. To date, Spark Fund committed almost $500,000 in UARF and State of Ohio funding to six projects.

Other successful Spark Fund projects include a light-releasable adhesive that will be used in large medical bandages to decrease patient pain and skin tears, and a hedgehog-inspired impact protection technology that is being tested for use in football helmets. Overall, the projects funded by Spark Fund come from six different UA labs and four different UA departments.

UARF serves UA and the Akron community through entrepreneurship education, technology commercialization, application of UA research, and creation of new entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more, visit the University of Akron Research Foundation online or email


Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or

Dr. Gary Doll

Dr. Gary Doll