Surface Engineering

Materials Engineering Department

| Materials Engineering Department | Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division |


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“The SwRI Surface Engineering program offers a wide range of vacuum coating and surface modification techniques. We have several large (>1 cubic meter) chambers that are able to perform a wide variety of processes.”

— Kent Coulter, Ph.D. Surface Engineering Section Manager




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  image of surface engineering testing facility

Surface Engineering Research Program Summary

SwRI conducts research, development and coating services for the practical treatment of materials and components using vacuum coatings, energetic ion beams and plasmas. Ion beams and plasmas are used to treat material surfaces to increase their resistance to corrosion, wear, fatigue failure, fretting and oxidation or to add functionality such as sensing, actuation and hydrophobicity. SwRI has nearly 40 years of experience in surface modification of advanced materials and performs work for the aerospace, energy and transportation, biomedical, manufacturing and tool and die industries.

Surface Engineering Laboratory Equipment

Processes include ion implantation of gaseous ions and ion-beam-assisted deposition (IBAD) of metals, ceramics and diamond-like carbon (DLC). This effort has grown from a single large processing chamber that was 6 ft. by 4 ft. to six large systems with about 10 full- and part-time technical staff members. These resources are currently being used to address client needs in a variety of areas including friction and wear reduction in metal and ceramic components, biocompatible and catalytic coatings for polymeric materials, and treatments for corrosion and oxidation resistance. SwRI has worked with both government and commercial clients handling surface engineering projects in areas such as manufacturing, power generation and biomaterials. In the past five years, we have enhanced our capabilities to include plasma immersion ion processing (PIIP), plasma enhanced magnetron sputtering (PEMS) and nanoplatelet production, which allows production, coating and surface modification of advanced materials with higher throughput and potentially lower costs.


For more information about Surface Engineering, contact Kent Coulter, Ph.D., at (210) 522-3196.

Contact Us

Kent Coulter, Ph.D.


T: (210) 522-3196

F: (210) 522-6220


Craig Engel


Edward Langa


Jim Riggs

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Surface Engineering

Materials Engineering Department

| Materials Engineering Department | Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division |


Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.

August 06, 2014