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.
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 74 p.
transition metal carbide, amorphous carbon, composite, contact resistance, corrosion, friction, optical properties
2016-10-14, Häggsalen, Ångström Laboratory, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Leisner, Peter, Prof.
Jansson, Ulf, Prof.