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Structural, mechanical and electrical-contact properties of nanocrystalline-NbC/amorphous-C coatings deposited by magnetron sputtering
Uppsala University.
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Thin Film Physics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Uppsala University.
Uppsala University.
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2011 (English)In: Surface & Coatings Technology, ISSN 0257-8972, E-ISSN 1879-3347, Vol. 206, no 2-3, 354-359 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Niobium-carbide nanocomposite coatings with a carbon content varying from 43 to 64 at.% were deposited by dual DC magnetron sputtering. X-ray diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and electron microscopy showed that all coatings consisted of nanometer sized NbC grains embedded in a matrix of amorphous carbon. Mechanical properties and electrical resistivity showed a strong dependency on the amount of amorphous carbon (a-C) and NbC grain size in the coating. The highest hardness (23 GPa), elastic modulus (295 GPa) and the lowest resistivity (260 mu Omega cm) were measured for the coating with about 15% of a-C phase. Contact resistance measurements using a crossed cylinder set-up showed lowest contact resistance for the coating containing 33% a-C (140 mu Omega at a contact force of 100 N), which is comparable to a Ag reference (45 mu Omega at a contact force of 100 N). Comparison with TiC-based nanocomposites studied under similar conditions showed that the Nb-C system has less tendency to form a-C and that lowest contact resistance is obtained at comparable amounts of a-C phase in both material systems (33% for Nb-C compared to 35% for Ti-C). With these good electrical contact properties, the Nb- C nanocomposites can be considered as a potential material for electrical contact applications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier , 2011. Vol. 206, no 2-3, 354-359 p.
Keyword [en]
Nanocomposite, Niobium carbide, Electrical contact properties, Mechanical properties, Magnetron sputtering
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-71636DOI: 10.1016/j.surfcoat.2011.07.021ISI: 000295386900023OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-71636DiVA: diva2:451832
Note

Funding Agencies|Vinnova (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) through the VINN Excellence Centre FunMat||Swedish Research Council (VR)||

Available from: 2011-10-27 Created: 2011-10-27 Last updated: 2016-08-31
In thesis
1. Me-Si-C (Me= Nb, Ti or Zr): Nanocomposite and Amorphous Thin Films
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Me-Si-C (Me= Nb, Ti or Zr): Nanocomposite and Amorphous Thin Films
2012 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates thin films of the transition metal carbide systems Ti-Si-C, Nb-Si-C, and Zr-Si-C, deposited at a low substrate temperature (350 °C) with dc magnetron sputtering in an Ar discharge. Both the electrical and mechanical properties of these systems are highly affected by their structure. For Nb-Si-C, both the ternary Nb-Si-C and the binary Nb-C are studied. I show pure NbC films to consist of crystalline NbC grains embedded in a matrix of amorphous carbon. The best combination of hardness and electrical resistivity are for ~15 at.% a-C phase. The properties of nc-NbC/a-C are similar to films consisting of nc-TiC/a-C. I further show that in a model system of epitaxial TiCx (x ~0.7) up to 5 at.% Si can be incorporated. At higher Si content, Si starts segregate out from the TiCx to the grain boundaries causing a loss of epitaxy. Higher amounts of Si into the Nb-Si-C and Zr-Si-C systems make them become amorphous. These amorphous structures are unstable under electron irradiation were they crystallize. I show that the cause of crystallization is driven by atomic displacement events.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012. 31 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1561
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85830 (URN)LIU-TEK-LIC-2012:46 (Local ID)978-91-7519-730-2 (ISBN)LIU-TEK-LIC-2012:46 (Archive number)LIU-TEK-LIC-2012:46 (OAI)
Presentation
2012-12-19, Schrödinger, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-11-29 Created: 2012-11-29 Last updated: 2016-08-31Bibliographically approved
2. Transition metal carbide nanocomposite and amorphous thin films
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Transition metal carbide nanocomposite and amorphous thin films
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores thin films of binary and ternary transition metal carbides, in the Nb-C, Ti-Si-C, Nb-Si-C, Zr-Si-C, and Nb-Ge-C systems. The electrical and mechanical properties of these systems are affected by their structure and here both nanocomposite and amorphous thin films are thus investigated. By appropriate choice of transition metal and composition the films can be designed to be multifunctional with a combination of properties, such as low electric resistivity, low contact resistance and high mechanical strength. Electrical contacts are one example of application that has been of special interest in this thesis. Since some industrially important substrates used in electrical contacts soften at higher temperature, all films were deposited with dc magnetron sputtering at a low substrate temperature (200-350 °C).

I show that the electrical resistivity and mechanical properties of composites consisting of nanocrystalline NbC grains (nc-NbC) in a matrix of amorphous C (a-C) depend strongly on the amount of amorphous C. The best combination of hardness (23 GPa) and electrical resistivity (260 μΩ*cm) are found in films with ~15 at.% a-C phase. This is a higher hardness and lower resistivity than measured for the more well studied Ti-C system if deposited under similar conditions. The better results can be explained by a thinner matrix of amorphous C phase in the case of NbC. The nc-NbC/a-C is therefore interesting as a material in electrical contacts.

Si can be added to further control the structure and thereby the properties of binary Me-C systems. There are however, different opinions in the literature of whether Si is incorporated on the Ti or C site in the cubic NaCl (B1) structure of TiC. In order to understand how Si is incorporated in a Me-Si-C material I use a model system of epitaxial TiCx (x ~0.7). In this model system a few atomic percent of Si can be incorporated in the cubic TiC structure. The experimental results together with theoretical stability calculations suggest that the Si is positioned at the C sites forming Ti(Si,C)x. The calculation further shows a strong tendency for Si segregation, which is seen at higher Si contents in the experiments, where Si starts segregate out from the TiCx to the grain boundaries causing a loss of epitaxy.

If Si is added to an Nb-C nanocomposite, it hinders the grain growth and thus a reduced size of the NbC grains is observed. The Si segregates to the amorphous matrix forming a-SiC. At the same time the resistivity increases and the hardness is reduced. With even higher amounts of Si (>25 at.%) into the Nb-Si-C material, grain growth is no longer possible and the material becomes amorphous. In order to separate between effects from the addition of Si and the choice of transition metal I compare the Nb-Si-C system to already published results for the Zr-Si-C system. I find that the hardness of the material depends on the amount of strong Si-C bonds rather than the type of transition metal. The reduced elastic modulus is, however, dependent on the choice of transition metal. I therefore suggest that it is possible to make Me-Si-C films with high wear resistance by an appropriate choice of transition metal and composition.

Electron microscopy was of importance for determining amorphous structures of Nb-Si-C and Zr-Si-C at high Si contents. However, the investigations were obstructed by electron beam induced crystallization. Further investigations show that the energy transferred from the beam electrons to C and Si atoms in the material is enough to cause atomic displacements. The displacements cause volume fluctuations and thereby enhance the mobility of all the atoms in the material. The result is formation of MeC grains, which are stable to further irradiation.

Finally, I have studied substitution of Ge for Si in a ternary system looking at Nb-Ge-C thin films. I show that the films consist of nc-NbC/a-C/a-Ge and that Ge in a similar way to Si decreases the size of the crystalline NbC grains. However, a transition to a completely amorphous material is not seen even at high Ge contents (~30 at.%). Another dissimilarity is that while Si bonds to C and forms a matrix of a-SiC, Ge tends to bond to Ge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 50 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1576
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-104929 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-104929 (DOI)978-91-7519-398-4 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-03-28, Planck, Fysikhuset, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-03-03 Created: 2014-03-03 Last updated: 2016-08-31Bibliographically approved

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