Structural and Mechanical Properties of Zr-Si-N Thin Films Prepared by Reactive Magnetron Sputtering


Mat. Res.




Zirconium silicon nitride (ZrSiN) thin films were deposited by reactive magnetron sputtering in order to verify the silicon influence on coating morphology and mechanical properties. The Si/(Zr+Si) ratio was adjusted between 0 to 15% just modifying the power applied on the silicon target. Only peaks associated to ZrN crystalline structure were observed in XRD analysis, since Si3N4 phase was amorphous. All samples have (111) preferred orientation, but there is a peak intensity reduction and a broadening increase for the sample with the highest Si/(Zr+Si) ratio (15%), demonstrating a considerable loss of crystallinity or grain size reduction (about 8 nm calculated by Scherrer). It was also observed that the I(200)/I(111) ratio increases with silicon addition. Chemical composition and thickness of the coatings were determined by RBS analysis. No significant changes in nanohardness with increasing Si content were found. The morphology observed by FEG-SEM presents non columnar characteristics for thin films with silicon addition. The set of results suggests that Si addition is restricting the columnar growth of ZrN thin films. This conclusion is justified by the fact that Si contributes to increase the ZrN grains nucleation during the sputtering process.

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