Structural, chemical and nanomechanical investigations of SiC/polymeric a-C:H films deposited by reactive RF unbalanced magnetron sputtering

Publication from Materials

Tomastik, C., Lackner, J.M., Pauschitz, A., Roy, M.

Solid State Sciences, 53, pp. 1-8 , 3/2016


Amorphous carbon (or diamond-like carbon, DLC) films have shown a number of important properties usable for a wide range of applications for very thin coatings with low friction and good wear resistance. DLC films alloyed with (semi-)metals show some improved properties and can be deposited by various methods. Among those, the widely used magnetron sputtering of carbon targets is known to increase the number of defects in the films. Therefore, in this paper an alternative approach of depositing silicon-carbide-containing polymeric hydrogenated DLC films using unbalanced magnetron sputtering was investigated. The influence of the C2H2 precursor concentration in the deposition chamber on the chemical and structural properties of the deposited films was investigated by Raman spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and elastic recoil detection analysis. Roughness, mechanical properties and scratch response of the films were evaluated with the help of atomic force microscopy and nanoindentation. The Raman spectra revealed a strong correlation of the film structure with the C2H2 concentration during deposition. A higher C2H2 flow rate results in an increase in SiC content and decrease in hydrogen content in the film. This in turn increases hardness and elastic modulus and decreases the ratio H/E and H3/E2. The highest scratch resistance is exhibited by the film with the highest hardness, and the film having the highest overall sp3 bond content shows the highest elastic recovery during scratching.