Chemistry Student Competes for $100K U.S. Space Force Award

Portrait of Tatyana Tarasevich, wearing black. Plants can be seen in the background.
Tatyana Tarasevich

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2021) – A Blackstone LaunchPad company created by a chemistry PhD student was selected as one of just two dozen nationwide eligible to compete for a $100,000 award funded by the U.S. Space Force.

Sfluor – a company that makes a new, super-hard and heat resistant photocuring polymer called Sulfluor – is the brainchild of Tatyana Tarasevich, a chemistry PhD student working in chemistry Professor John Welch’s lab. The product is three times stronger than others in its class and dries quickly under normal light without the need for specialized lighting or harsh chemicals, explained Tarasevich. It also doesn’t emit harmful volatile organic compounds, which makes it naturally more environmentally friendly than alternatives, according to Tarasevich.

“The idea to start a company came after we saw the preliminary data of what the polymer properties actually are,” said Tarasevich. “We believe there is nothing currently on the market that exhibits a lot of these properties simultaneously, which addresses many pains in several markets. We decided that this polymer should not sit on the bench and should be further characterized and brought to the market.”

Tarasevich notes that the polymer can also be fine-tuned for a range of high-performance aviation and aerospace applications. It’s Sfluor’s potential in this area that caught the attention of judges for the Hyperspace Challenge. Run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity, the challenge is a “business accelerator that forges valuable relationships between the government, startup, and university communities to accelerate innovation for the space domain,” according to the website.

The Hyperspace Challenge explained in a press release that as one of the companies selected for the challenge, Sfluor is “tasked with the development of technology that can be applied to or solve problems in the space domain.”

Sfluor will present their concept at a virtual event on December 2. Finalists with “the most viable technologies” will receive $100,000 to support further opportunities.

“Participation in the Hyperspace Challenge has opened doors for Tatyana, including an invitation to join the National Security Technology Accelerator that encourages collaboration between Industry and Government,” said Welch. “In addition, Tatyana had an introduction by Matt Fetrow, the Technology Outreach Lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory, to participate in the Space Start up Panel led by Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York, and the U.S. Space Force. This experience provided both excellent training and exposure to the military and commercial world of space technology development.”

For more information on the Hyperspace Challenge, including the other 2021 awardees, visit the challenge’s website.