Hard Ti1−xAlxN thin films are of importance for metal-cutting applications. The hardness, thermal stability, and oxidation resistance of these coatings can be further enhanced by alloying with TaN. We use a hybrid high-power pulsed and dc magnetron co-sputtering (HIPIMS/DCMS) technique to grow dense and hard Ti0.41Al0.51Ta0.08N alloys without external heating (Ts < 150 °C). Separate Ti and Al targets operating in the DCMS mode maintain a deposition rate of ∼50 nm/min, while irradiation of the growing film by heavy Ta+/Ta2+ ions from the HIPIMS-powered Ta target, using dc bias synchronized to the metal-ion-rich part of each HIPIMS pulse, provides effective near-surface atomic mixing resulting in densification. The substrate is maintained at floating potential between the short bias pulses to minimize Ar+ bombardment, which typically leads to high compressive stress. Transmission and scanning electron microscopy analyses reveal dramatic differences in the microstructure of the co-sputtered HIPIMS/DCMS films (Ta-HIPIMS) compared to films with the same composition grown at floating potential with all targets in the DCMS mode (Ta-DCMS). The Ta-DCMS alloy films are only ∼70% dense due to both inter- and intra-columnar porosity. In contrast, the Ta-HIPIMS layers exhibit no inter-columnar porosity and are essentially fully dense. The mechanical properties of Ta-HIPIMS films are significantly improved with hardness and elastic modulus values of 28.0 and 328 GPa compared to 15.3 and 289 GPa for reference Ta-DCMS films.
Low-temperature growth of dense and hard Ti0.41Al0.51Ta0.08N films via hybrid HIPIMS/DC magnetron co-sputtering with synchronized metal-ion irradiation
H. Fager, O. Tengstrand, J. Lu, S. Bolz, B. Mesic, W. Kölker, Ch. Schiffers, O. Lemmer, J. E. Greene, L. Hultman, I. Petrov, G. Greczynski; Low-temperature growth of dense and hard Ti0.41Al0.51Ta0.08N films via hybrid HIPIMS/DC magnetron co-sputtering with synchronized metal-ion irradiation. J. Appl. Phys. 7 May 2017; 121 (17): 171902. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4977818
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