Influence of film thickness and Ar-N2 plasma gas on the structure and performance of sputtered vanadium nitride coatings
Surface and Coatings Technology
We investigated the effect of film thickness on the structure and properties of V-N coatings deposited by magnetron sputtering in an argon and nitrogen atmosphere. The nitrogen percentage was changed between 10 and 20 %. Firstly, structural and morphological properties of V-N films were observed, analyzed and subsequently followed by a detailed investigation on the mechanical and tribological properties of these coatings. It has been shown that film structure, hardness and wear resistance significantly changed with varying the film thickness and the nitrogen percentage. In the case of films deposited under 10 %N2, the presence of V2N phase was evident. With increasing nitrogen ratio in the deposition chamber from 10 to 20 %, the structure was changed from (hc)V2N to multi phases of V2N and (fcc) VN (formation of different vanadium nitrides). The thick films containing more nitrogen were slightly dense compared to the thinner ones presenting rough surface and columnar morphology. Nanoindentation measurements showed that film mechanical behavior depends on its thickness, nitrogen percentage and microstructural features. The film hardness first increased with its thickness and then decreased. The highest hardness of 26.2 GPa was obtained for the film deposited under 20 %N2, which is correlated with its dense structure and film stoichiometry. The film thickness has a significant effect on the tribological properties of V-N films. The minimum friction coefficient of 0.4 was found for the thickest film of 2500 nm. The wear rate gradually decreased with increasing the film thickness, due to the high hardness, presence of VN phase and the strong adhesion between film and substrate.