Effect of stress-induced phase transformation on nanomechanical properties of sputtered amorphous carbon films

Lu, W.; Komvopoulos, K.
April 2003
Applied Physics Letters;4/14/2003, Vol. 82 Issue 15, p2437
Academic Journal
The nanomechanical properties of radio-frequency sputtered ultrathin carbon films measured by surface force microscopy were correlated to the carbon bonding structures analyzed by x-ray photoelectron and Auger electron spectroscopy. The films consisted of amorphous carbon (a-C) comprising both trigonal (sp²) and tetrahedral (sp³) carbon hybridizations. The sp³ carbon content in the a-C materials of films with nanohardness of 19-40 GPa was found to be in the range of 22%-28%. From variations of the binding energy of Ar2p electrons and the sp³ carbon content with the film Ar content, a stress-induced phase transformation from sp² to sp³ carbon was determined at compressive residual stress of about 14 GPa. Film hardening occurs due to material densification, which is controlled by the intensity of the energetic Ar[sup +] bombardment and the flux ratio of incoming C atoms and Ar[sup +] ions during film growth. The results of this study elucidate the underlying hardening mechanism in ultrathin sputter-deposited carbon films.


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