Boron carbide and boron carbonitride thin films as protective coatings in ultra-high density hard disk drives

Yanfeng Chen, Yip Wah Chung*, Shu You Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Boron carbide (B4C) and boron carbon nitride (Bx CyNz) thin films were synthesized by pulsed DC magnetron sputtering. Effects of target power, target pulse frequency, substrate bias and pulse frequency on surface roughness were studied by AFM over sampling areas of 20 μm × 20 μm. For B4 C, the combination of target power of 75 W/50 kHz and substrate bias of -100 V/2 kHz results in the smallest surface roughness. Compressive stress in these films is around 2.5 GPa. These B4C films have a hardness of 30 ± 5 GPa and reduced modulus of 250 ± 50 GPa. Nitrogen incorporation into B4C films, which gives BxCyNz thin films, has a beneficial effect. When deposited under similar conditions with substrate bias pulsed at -100 V/20 kHz, the root-mean-square surface roughness decreases to 0.19 nm, compared with 0.28 nm for B4C. The hardness of BxCyNz is 20 ± 3 GPa, and reduced modulus is 210 ± 30 GPa. Auger electron spectroscopy was used to characterize the film composition. High-resolution cross-sectioned TEM images and diffraction show that both films are amorphous. Corrosion studies indicate that Bx CyNz is a better protective coating for hard disk substrates than B4C and CNx films. This is attributed mainly to the smoother morphology of Bx CyNz films.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4072-4077
Number of pages6
JournalSurface and Coatings Technology
Issue number12-13
StatePublished - Mar 31 2006


  • AES
  • Boron carbide
  • Boron carbon nitride
  • Nano-indentation
  • Pulse DC magnetron sputtering
  • TEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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