Nonsticky Surfaces Stick, Thanks to Process Developed At UB

Release Date: September 1, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Non-stick surfaces have been a blessing in the kitchen, but in the laboratory scientists have long puzzled over how to exploit their properties by permanently bonding them to other substrates without destroying them.

A new product on the market -- based on an innovative, patented technology developed at the University at Buffalo -- solves that problem.

Like the nonstick surfaces on frying pans, FluoroGrip(tm) is a fluoropolymer film. It has been surface-modified, then laminated with an acrylic- or rubber-based pressure-sensitive adhesive so that it can be used as a permanent protective coating for metallic and other surfaces. Fluoropolymers, on the other hand, are attached to frying pans through a process that allows flakes to be "baked" into the frame of the pan.

The technology was developed by Joseph A. Gardella, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, and Terrence G. Vargo, Ph.D., formerly a research fellow at UB, now vice president and chief technical officer of Integument Technologies, Inc.

The Research Foundation of the State University of New York, which exclusively licensed the technology to Integument Technologies, Inc. (ITI), has taken an equity position in the company.

Industrial applications for FluoroGrip(tm) include coatings for metallic pipes and tanks in chemical plants, as well as fume hoods and other surfaces that are susceptible to chemical corrosion. It's anticipated it also will be used in biomedical and electronics applications.

The film's critical characteristic is the strength and permanence of the bond it forms with an adhesive.

"Our product does not come off," said Douglas Naab, vice president in charge of FluoroGrip for Integument Technologies, Inc. "A strong, permanent, covalent bond develops between the adhesive and the modified film."

Other products on the market form mechanical bonds with adhesives, he explained. While such products are sufficient for temporary bonding at ambient temperatures, they may give way when exposed to sunlight, moisture or high temperatures.

FluoroGrip(tm), on the other hand, performs well under extreme conditions.

According to Gardella, fluoropolymers are such successful materials because of their inherent properties, such as their insulating character, non-stick surfaces and the fact that they're chemically unreactive.

"But in order to use them for thin film or surface applications, it was necessary for us to change the surface chemistry," he explained. "Until now, that has only been possible with extremely corrosive methods."

In most other processes, he said, researchers have created reactions on nonstick surfaces by stripping off all of the fluorine, essentially turning the surface into graphite; during that process, they are unable to control which chemical groups are placed on that surface.

By contrast, the process the UB researchers developed allows removal of just a few fluorines and their replacement with only hydroxyl groups, making these hydroxyls even more reactive.

The UB process, which uses a plasma to gently and selectively modify the fluoropolymer surface, allows any fluorinated polymer -- not just common fluoropolymers -- to be altered.

"We have continued this line of research with grant and in-kind support from ITI, which helped to fine-tune the surface chemistry for the development of additional products based on this technology," said Gardella.

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