Harmonizing mechanical responses of nanostructured CrN coatings via Ni additions
Applied Surface Science
School of Engineering
Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship
© 2020 CrN coatings are often brittle and prone to abrupt failure. Incorporation of Ni is known to have significant effects on the chemical composition, microstructure and mechanical behaviour of chromium nitride coatings synthesised by PVD, and thus imparting toughness. In this study, a series of NiCrN coatings, with varying Ni concentrations, were deposited onto AISI M2 tool steel substrates through closed-field unbalanced magnetron sputtering ion plating (CFUMSIP). The phase compositions, microstructure, mechanical properties and deformation behaviour of the coatings were characterised by XRD, AFM, FIB, TEM/EDS and indentation testing. Residual stresses of these as-prepared coatings were measured by the XRD-sin2ψ method. A columnar structure was observed in all coatings, although grain refinement at higher NiCr target currents was noted. High hardness values of ~20 GPa were found in the coatings with the lower Ni (~5–14 at%) contents, associated with the effects of solid solution hardening, high compressive residual stress and grain refinement. Moreover, significant damage-tolerance, coupled with good hardness values (greater than ~12 GPa), was found in the NiCrN coatings deposited at INiCr ≥ 2 A. The presence of a metallic nickel-rich phase, together with nanoscale porosity, may contribute to stress dissipation and help maintain structural integrity.