Characterisation and tribological evaluation of nitrogen-containing molybdenum-copper PVD metallic nanocomposite films
AuthorJoseph, M. C.
Baker, M. A.
Kench, P. J.
SourceSurface and Coatings Technology
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This paper reports on the structural, mechanical and tribological properties of molybdenum-copper nanocomposite films 'doped' with small amounts of nitrogen, which contain either no nitride phase (i.e. the nitrogen is held in interstitial solid solution, mainly in molybdenum) or small amounts of lower nitrides (i.e. Mo2N). All films were deposited on Si wafers, AISI M2 high speed steel and AISI 316 stainless steel by reactive sputtering using a hot-filament-enhanced dc unbalanced magnetron system. A systematic approach was adopted to investigate the evolution of metal/metal and ceramic/metal phase combinations with increasing nitrogen content (up to ∼ 40 at.% N) in the film. Coating composition and microstructure were determined by cross-sectional TEM, SEM and XPS. XRD was used to identify (where possible) metallic and metal-nitride phases. Mechanical properties such as hardness and elastic modulus were determined by low load Knoop and instrumented Vickers indentation measurements. Reciprocating sliding, micro-abrasion and impact tests were performed to assess tribological performance. It was found that increasing the nitrogen gas flow rate from 0 to 15 sccm (and therefore nitrogen content in the film from 0 to 24 at.% N), refined significantly the coating microstructure from columnar to a dense and more equiaxed morphology, increasing the hardness whilst maintaining (almost constant) elastic modulus values, close to that of molybdenum metal. Further increases in the nitrogen gas flow rate resulted in films that appeared to contain significant fractions of the Mo2N ceramic phase. SEM and cross-sectional TEM analyses of the film deposited at a nitrogen flow rate of 20 sccm (containing ∼36 at.% N) demonstrated a microstructure consisting of 50-100 nm wide columns, which contain small regions of contrast in dark-field images, of the order of 3-5 nm wide. A maximum hardness of 32 GPa and the highest hardness/modulus ratio was however found in the (predominantly metallic) film deposited at a nitrogen gas flow rate of 15 sccm. This film also performed best in both micro-abrasion and impact wear testsin contrast, the 'ceramic' film (deposited at 20 sccm nitrogen flow rate) performed better in reciprocating sliding wear. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.