Structure and mechanical properties of polycrystalline CrN/TiN superlattices

P. Yashar*, S. A. Barnett, J. Rechner, W. D. Sproul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Polycrystalline CrN/TiN superlattice films were deposited on M1 tool steel using unbalanced reactive magnetron sputtering with opposed cathodes. The Cr and Ti targets were sputtered in Ar-N2 mixtures with partial pressure control of the N2. As the N2 partial pressure was increased from 0.1 to 1.1 mTorr, TiNx films went from stoichiometric B1-cubic TiN to slightly overstoichiometric TiN, while CrNx films went from cubic Cr-N solid solutions to hexagonal Cr2N to B1-cubic CrN. Since the N2 partial pressure required to form stoichiometric CrN was ≈10 times that required to form stoichiometric TiN, nitrogen was inlet at the Cr target position to maximize the difference in N2 partial pressures. Two series of CrN/TiN superlattices, with TiN fractions of 0.4 and 0.6, were deposited with periods ranging from 2 to 60 nm. X-ray diffraction showed a very strong (111) texture with first-order satellite peaks around the (111) Bragg peak. Kinematical diffraction simulations of the superlattice x-ray patterns indicated a strong composition modulation and a significant fluctuation in d-spacing that was related to ion bombardment defects. Cross-sectional transmission electron microscope images showed a columnar film structure with well-defined superlattice layers. Nanoindentation of 2-μm-thick CrN/TiN samples showed a maximum hardness of 35 GPa at a period of 2.3 nm, compared to 25 GPa for TiN and 14 GPa for CrN films. The maximum superlattice hardness was thus ≈75% larger than the rule-of-mixtures value. The hardness enhancement mechanisms are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2913-2918
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Vacuum Science and Technology A: Vacuum, Surfaces and Films
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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