An excellent adhesion of hard coatings to steel substrates is paramount in practically all application areas. Conventional methods utilize Ar glow etching or cathodic arc discharge pretreatments that have the disadvantage of producing weak interfaces or adding droplets, respectively. One tool for interface engineering is high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS). HIPIMS is based on conventional sputtering with extremely high peak power densities reaching at current densities of . HIPIMS of Cr and Nb was used to prepare interfaces on 304 stainless steel and M2 high speed steel (HSS). During the pretreatment, the substrates were biased to and in the environment of a HIPIMS of Cr and Nb plasma. The bombarding flux density reached peak values of and consisted of highly ionized metal plasma containing a high proportion of and . Pretreatments were also carried out with Ar glow discharge and filtered cathodic arc as comparison. The adhesion was evaluated for coatings consisting of a thick CrN base layer and a thick nanolayer stack of with a period of , hardness of , and residual stress of . For HIPIMS of Cr pretreatment, the adhesion values on M2 HSS reached scratch test critical load values of , thus comparing well to for interfaces pretreated by arc discharge plasmas and to for Ar etching. Cross sectional transmission electron microscopy studies revealed a clean interface and large areas of epitaxial growth in the case of HIPIMS pretreatment. The HIPIMS pretreatment promoted strong registry between the orientation of the coating and polycrystalline substrate grains due to the incorporation of metal ions and the preservation of crystallinity of the substrate. Evidence and conditions for the formation of cube-on-cube epitaxy and axiotaxy on steel and substrates are presented.
Interface microstructure engineering by high power impulse magnetron sputtering for the enhancement of adhesion
A. P. Ehiasarian, J. G. Wen, I. Petrov; Interface microstructure engineering by high power impulse magnetron sputtering for the enhancement of adhesion. J. Appl. Phys. 1 March 2007; 101 (5): 054301. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.2697052
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