Effects of nitrogen content on nanostructure evolution, mechanical behaviors and thermal stability in Ti-B-N thin films

Y. H. Lu*, Y. G. Shen, K. Y. Li, H. D. Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Several thin films of Ti-B-N with different N contents were deposited at 500 °C on Si (100) substrate by reactive unbalanced dc magnetron sputtering, followed by vacuum annealed at 600, 800 and 1000 °C, respectively. The effect of nitrogen content on microstructure, mechanical behaviors and thermal stability was investigated by X-ray diffraction (XRD), plan-view high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and microindentation methods. The results indicated that nitrogen content had a great effect on phase configuration, microstructure and the corresponding mechanical behaviors. An amorphous (a-) Ti-TiB2 compound thin film which consists of Ti and TiB2 with a low hardness value was formed without nitrogen doped. Addition of small amount of nitrogen (10 at.% N in this study) produced nanocomposite nanocrystalline (nc-) Ti(N)/a-TiB2 thin films by way of activating phase segregation. Increasing nitrogen content accelerated further segregation of phase, accompanied with formation of nanocomposite nc-TiN/a-TiB2 thin films and fast increase of microhardness value. A maximum microhardness value of about 52 GPa was obtained at TiB0.52N0.63. Further increase of N content accelerated formation of BN bonding, followed by formation of nc-TiN/a-TiB2/a-BN thin films and fast decrease of microhardness value. The residual stress was not consistent with the microhardness, and showed linear increase with increasing N content. The thermal stability of Ti-B-N thin films strongly depended on microstructure and phase configuration. A high thermal stability usually occurred at an optimum composition which had a high microhardness value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1228-1235
Number of pages8
JournalSurface and Coatings Technology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 5 Oct 2006


  • Mechanical behaviors
  • Microstructure
  • Nitrogen
  • Thermal stability
  • Ti-B-N thin films

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