Microstructure, mechanical and optical properties of TiAlON coatings sputter-deposited with varying oxygen partial pressures

Publication from Materials

N. Schalk, J. F. T. Simonet Fotso, D. Holec, A. Fian, G. Jakopic, V. L. Terziyska, R. Daniel, C. Mitterer

Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 49, 025307 , 12/2015


Due to their excellent mechanical and optical properties as well as chemical stability, the synthesis of transition metal oxynitride thin films has attracted growing interest in the last years. Within this work, the evolution of the structure and properties of TiAlON coatings over a wide compositional range, from the nitride to the oxide side, was investigated. The coatings were grown on Si substrates in a laboratory-scale unbalanced magnetron dc sputtering system from powder metallurgical TiAl targets with an Al/Ti atomic ratio of 60/40, using a constant level of nitrogen with rising oxygen partial pressure. Coating composition and microstructure were investigated by energy- and wavelength-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Furthermore, the mechanical and optical properties were evaluated using nanoindentation and spectroscopic ellipsometry, respectively. Oxygen concentrations of up to 49 at.% within the films could be obtained, at the expense of the nitrogen content. The oxygen-free coating exhibited a single-phase fcc-Ti1?xAlxN structure. With increasing oxygen content the structure remained fcc-Ti1?xAlxN based, but additional fractions of amorphous oxides were formed. The structural evolution was corroborated by ab initio calculations. Decreasing coating hardness could be observed with increasing oxygen concentration. The refraction index and extinction coefficient were lower for coatings with higher oxygen content, but the behavior of the optical properties remained Ti1?xAlxN-like over the investigated spectral range.