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Characterization of amorphous and nanocomposite Nb-Si-C thin films deposited by DC magnetron sputtering
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Chemistry, Department of Chemistry - Ångström, Inorganic Chemistry.
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2013 (English)In: Thin Solid Films, ISSN 0040-6090, E-ISSN 1879-2731, Vol. 545, 272-278 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Two series of Nb-Si-C thin films of different composition have been deposited using DC magnetron sputtering. In the first series the carbon content was kept at about 55 at.% while the Si/Nb ratio was varied and in the second series the C/Nb ratio was varied instead while the Si content was kept at about 45 at.%. The microstructure is strongly dependent on Si content and Nb-Si-C films containing more than 25 at.% Si exhibit an amorphous structure as determined by X-ray diffraction. Transmission electron microscopy, however, induces crystallisation during analysis, thus obstructing a more detailed analysis of the amorphous structure. X-ray photo-electron spectroscopy suggests that the amorphous films consist of a mixture of chemical bonds such as Nb-Si, Nb-C, and Si-C. The addition of Si results in a hardness decrease from 22 GPa for the binary Nb-C film to 18 - 19 GPa for the Si-containing films, while film resistivity increases from 211 mu Omega cm to 3215 mu Omega cm. Comparison with recently published results on DC magnetron sputtered Zr-Si-C films, deposited in the same system using the same Arplasma pressure, bias, and a slightly lower substrate temperature (300 degrees C instead of 350 degrees C), shows that hardness is primarily dependent on the amount of Si-C bonds rather than type of transition metal. The reduced elastic modulus on the other hand shows a dependency on the type of transition metal for the films. These trends for the mechanical properties suggest that high wear resistant (high H/E and H-3/E-2 ratio) Me-Si-C films can be achieved by appropriate choice of film composition and transition metal. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 545, 272-278 p.
Keyword [en]
Magnetron sputtering, Carbide, Amorphous structure, Structure characterization, Mechanical properties, Electrical properties
National Category
Materials Chemistry
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-209841DOI: 10.1016/j.tsf.2013.08.066ISI: 000324820800045OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-209841DiVA: diva2:659942
Available from: 2013-10-28 Created: 2013-10-28 Last updated: 2014-04-29
In thesis
1. Synthesis and Characterization of Multifunctional Carbide- and Boride-based Thin Films
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Synthesis and Characterization of Multifunctional Carbide- and Boride-based Thin Films
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis present research on synthesis, microstructure, and properties of carbide- and boride- based thin films. The films have been synthesized by dc magnetron sputtering, and their microstructures have been characterized mainly by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy.  One of the main objectives with this research has been to evaluate the thin films potential as materials for sliding electrical contact applications and this have influenced, which properties that have been evaluated.

Co-sputtered Nb-C films have a microstructure comprising of nanocrystalline NbCx  (nc-NbCx) grains embedded in a matrix of amorphous C (a-C). A thinner a-C matrix form in the Nb-C films compared to the well-studied Ti-C system. As a consequence, the Nb-C films have a higher hardness and conductivity than previously studied Ti-C sputtered under similar conditions. The promising electrical contact properties are attained for reactively sputtered Nb-C films under industrial conditions, at deposition rates two orders of magnitude higher. A reduction in crystallinity is seen when Si is added to the Nb-C films and amorphous films forms at Si content > 25 at.%. The alloying of Si was however not beneficial for the electrical contact properties.

Substoichiometric CrB2-x (B/Cr = 1.5) and NbB2-x (B/Nb = 1.8) films are achieved when deposited from MeB2 targets. Boron segregates to grain boundaries forming a B-rich tissue phase. This result in superhardness for the NbB2-x films (42 ± 4 GPa) as well as a low friction attributed to the formation of a boric acid film. Carbon forms a solid solution in the MeB2 grains as well as segregating to grain boundaries forming an amorphous BCx (a-BCx) phase when alloyed to CrB2-x and NbB2-x films. The formation of the a-BCx phase drastically improves the electrical contact resistance of the NbB2-x films. However, the mechanical properties are degraded, which result in a high friction and wear rate.

It was in TEM studies of the metastable amorphous structures for the Nb-Si-C films found that the electron beam induces crystallization. Hence, great care is required when studying these types of metastable structures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2014. 79 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1127
thin film, coating, magnetron sputtering, nanocomposite, boride, carbide, electrical properties, mechanical properties
National Category
Materials Chemistry
Research subject
Chemistry with specialization in Materials Chemistry
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-219040 (URN)978-91-554-8886-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-04-04, Polhemssalen, Ångströmslaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2014-03-13 Created: 2014-02-20 Last updated: 2014-04-29

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