Behaviour of physical vapor deposited nanocomposite coatings under extreme environments
Date of Issue2017
Interdisciplinary Graduate School (IGS)
TiN-based nanocomposite coatings were prepared using physical vapor deposition to deliver enhanced mechanical, tribological and thermal character that can be exploited for superhard cutting tool surfacing. These properties are controlled by tailoring processing methods to tune the microstructure and microchemistry. This thesis examined three coating systems, which are Ti-Al-N, Ti-Al-Y-N and Ti-Si-N, configured variously as multilayer superlattices and nanocomposites to comprehensively correlate hardness, wear resistance and oxidation resistance with deposition parameters. Combining X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy with physical-mechanical testing, over a wide range of coating configurations, permitted construction of a predictive process-performance matrix to guide the fabrication of hardened surfaces. In multilayer TiN/TixAl1-xN coatings prepared by cathodic arc deposition, the mechanical properties were controlled by the layer period that was adjusted by varying substrate rotation speed. A hardness of 38.9 ± 3.6 GPa was achieved for a superlattice period of 13 nm, where the coatings contain columnar <111> textured rock salt – type crystals connected by low-angle grain boundaries. When yttrium was introduced to the multilayers, by adding a Y - metal target powered by DC magnetron sputtering, the morphology changed from columnar to acicular grains with smaller grain size. Specifically, by fixing the period at 5.5 nm and incorporating Y from 0 to 2.4 at% the grain size decreased (100-200 nm to 20-30 nm) and hardness increased (28.7 ± 7.3 GPa to 40.8 ± 2.8 GPa). The improved performance was a consequence of solid solution hardening that arises from the misfit strain field introduced by Y (element radii 2.12 Å) substitution for Ti (1.76 Å) or Al (1.18 Å), and a nanosize effect, where finer grains result in a greater volume fraction of grain boundaries that block dislocation movement. Higher Y additions also retard oxidation as high temperature (800 ºC) annealing generates Ti2O3, rather than TiO2 as in Y-free coatings, and also affects Al oxidation. Adhesion and wear resistance were not compromised by higher Y contents demonstrating that TiN/TixAl1-xN coatings can enhance mechanical properties and thermal stability. Notably, this work employed a pure Y target, instead of an Ti-Al-Y alloy target, and substrate holder rotation speed was the critical parameter, where faster substrate rotation lead to smaller periods and more uniform Y distribution. However, an Y-rich layer became progressively thicker at slower rotation with the period increasing from 5.5 nm to 24 nm. These Y-rich regions seeded crystal nucleation that reduced coherency at layer interfaces and grain boundaries to significantly degrade mechanical properties (40.8 ± 2.8 GPa to 29.7 ± 4.9 GPa). Therefore, the period and Y content work in tandem in multilayered TiN/TixAl1-xN coatings and the optimized Y content was to be 2.4 at% at a period of 5.5 nm. Nanocrystallite TiN / amorphous (a)-Si3N4 nanocomposites were fabricated by high power impulse magnetron sputtering. The introduction of silicon by controlling the Si target current can be used to modify the coating structure, tailor mechanical properties, improve wear resistance and passivate oxidation. Smaller crystal sizes promoted at higher Si content lead to TiN / amorphous (a)-Si3N4 nanocomposites, with ~10 at% Si/(Si+Ti) yielding maximum hardness (41.31 ± 2.93 GPa). Compared to TiN, Ti0.903Si0.097N showed enhanced resistance to oxidation and wear resistance, however, the TiN crystallites were not completely encapsulated by a-Si3N4 intergranular films and further optimization of the structure and property relationship can be realised.