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Open AccessFeature PaperEditor’s ChoiceArticle

Control over the Phase Formation in Metastable Transition Metal Nitride Thin Films by Tuning the Al+ Subplantation Depth

Thin Film Physics Division, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM), Linköping University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden
Materials Chemistry, RWTH Aachen University, Kopernikusstr. 10, D-52074 Aachen, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Coatings 2019, 9(1), 17;
Received: 12 November 2018 / Revised: 10 December 2018 / Accepted: 22 December 2018 / Published: 28 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Design and Synthesis of Hard Coatings)
The performance of transition metal nitride based coatings deposited by magnetron sputtering, in a broad range of applications including wear-protective coatings on cutting tools and components in automotive engines, is determined by their phase content. The classical example is the precipitation of thermodynamically-favored wurtzite-AlN while alloying TiN with Al to obtain ternary single phase NaCl-structure films with improved high-temperature oxidation resistance. Here, we report on reactive high-power impulse and direct current magnetron co-sputtering (HiPIMS/DCMS) growth of Ti0.31Al0.69N and Zr0.48Al0.52N thin films. The Al concentrations are intentionally chosen to be higher than theoretically predicted solubility limits for the rock salt structure. The goal is to investigate the effect of the incident Al+ energy EAl+, controlled by varying the amplitude of the substrate bias applied synchronously with the Al+-rich portion of the ion flux from the Al-HiPIMS source, on the crystalline phase formation. For EAl+ ≤ 60 eV, films contain predominantly the wurtzite phase. With increasing EAl+, and thus, the Al subplantation depth, the relative fraction of the NaCl structure increases and eventually for EAl+ > 250 eV, Ti0.31Al0.69N and Zr0.48Al0.52N layers contain more than 95% of the rock salt phase. Thus, the separation of the film forming species in time and energy domains determines the phase formation of Ti0.31Al0.69N and Zr0.48Al0.52N layers and enables the growth of the cubic phase outside of the predicted Al concentration range. The new film growth concept can be applied to the entire family of multinary transition metal aluminum nitrides, where one of the metallic film constituents is available in the ionized form while the other arrives as neutral. View Full-Text
Keywords: HiPIMS; TiAlN; PVD; ZrAlN; magnetron sputtering; solubility HiPIMS; TiAlN; PVD; ZrAlN; magnetron sputtering; solubility
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Greczynski, G.; Mráz, S.; Hans, M.; Lu, J.; Hultman, L.; Schneider, J.M. Control over the Phase Formation in Metastable Transition Metal Nitride Thin Films by Tuning the Al+ Subplantation Depth. Coatings 2019, 9, 17.

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