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Passive films on nanocomposite carbide coatings for electrical contact applications
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Chemistry, Department of Chemistry - Ångström, Inorganic Chemistry. Impact Coatings AB, Westmansgatan 29, 582 16 Linköping, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5516-6388
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Chemistry, Department of Chemistry - Ångström, Inorganic Chemistry.
2017 (English)In: Journal of Materials Science, ISSN 0022-2461, E-ISSN 1573-4803, Vol. 52, no 13, 8231-8246 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Nanocomposite transition metal carbide/amorphous carbon coatings (Me-C/a-C) deposited by magnetron sputtering have excellent electrical contact properties. The contact resistance can be as low as that of noble metal coatings, although it is known to vary by several orders of magnitude depending on the deposition conditions. We have investigated a nanocrystalline niobium carbide/amorphous carbon (NbC (x) /a-C:H) model system aiming to clarify factors affecting the contact resistance for this group of contact materials. For the first time, the surface chemistry is systematically studied, by angle-resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and in extension how it can explain the contact resistance. The coatings presented a mean oxide thickness of about 1 nm, which could be grown to 8 nm by annealing. Remarkably, the contact resistances covered four orders of magnitude and were found to be exponentially dependent on the mean oxide thickness. Moreover, there is an optimum in the amount of a-C:H phase where the contact resistance drops very significantly and it is thus important to not only consider the mean oxide thickness. To explain the results, a model relying on surface chemistry and contact mechanics is presented. The lowest contact resistance of a nanocomposite matched that of a gold coating at 1 N load (vs. gold), and such performance has previously not been demonstrated for similar nanocomposite materials, highlighting their useful properties for electrical contact applications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 52, no 13, 8231-8246 p.
National Category
Inorganic Chemistry
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-302061DOI: 10.1007/s10853-017-1039-0ISI: 000399422000050OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-302061DiVA: diva2:956179
Funder
Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research VINNOVASwedish Research Council, VR 2011-3492
Available from: 2016-08-29 Created: 2016-08-29 Last updated: 2017-05-23Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Magnetron Sputtering of Nanocomposite Carbide Coatings for Electrical Contacts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Magnetron Sputtering of Nanocomposite Carbide Coatings for Electrical Contacts
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Today’s electronic society relies on the functionality of electrical contacts. To achieve good contact properties, surface coatings are normally applied. Such coatings should ideally fulfill a combination of different properties, like high electrical conductivity, high corrosion resistance, high wear resistance and low cost. A common coating strategy is to use noble metals since these do not form insulating surface oxides. However, such coatings are expensive, have poor wear resistance and they are often applied by electroplating, which poses environmental and human health hazards.

In this thesis, nanocomposite carbide-based coatings were studied and the aim was to evaluate if they could exhibit properties that were suitable for electrical contacts. Coatings in the Cr-C, Cr-C-Ag and Nb-C systems were deposited by magnetron sputtering using research-based equipment as well as industrial-based equipment designed for high-volume production. To achieve the aim, the microstructure and composition of the coatings were characterized, whereas mechanical, tribological, electrical, electrochemical and optical properties were evaluated. A method to optically measure the amount of carbon was developed.

In the Cr-C system, a variety of deposition conditions were explored and amorphous carbide/amorphous carbon (a-C) nanocomposite coatings could be obtained at substrate temperatures up to 500 °C. The amount of a-C was highly dependent on the total carbon content. By co-sputtering with Ag, coatings comprising an amorphous carbide/carbon matrix, with embedded Ag nanoclusters, were obtained. Large numbers of Ag nanoparticles were also found on the surfaces. In the Nb-C system, nanocrystalline carbide/a-C coatings could be deposited. It was found that the nanocomposite coatings formed very thin passive films, consisting of both oxide and a-C.

The Cr-C coatings exhibited low hardness and low-friction properties. In electrochemical experiments, the Cr-C coatings exhibited high oxidation resistance. For the Cr-C-Ag coatings, the Ag nanoparticles oxidized at much lower potentials than bulk Ag. Overall, electrical contact resistances for optimized samples were close to noble metal references at low contact load. Thus, the studied coatings were found to have properties that make them suitable for electrical contact applications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. 74 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1417
Keyword
transition metal carbide, amorphous carbon, composite, contact resistance, corrosion, friction, optical properties
National Category
Materials Chemistry Inorganic Chemistry Ceramics Nano Technology Composite Science and Engineering Corrosion Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-302063 (URN)978-91-554-9676-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-10-14, Häggsalen, Ångström Laboratory, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-09-22 Created: 2016-08-29 Last updated: 2016-10-11

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