Synthesis and structure of smooth, superhard TiN/SiNx multilayer coatings with an equiaxed microstructure

Yu Hsia Chen, Kitty W. Lee, Wen An Chiou, Yip Wah Chung*, Leon M. Keer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


TiN coatings have been widely used in various tribological applications. However, TiN coatings predominantly grow with a columnar grain structure, and these columnar grain boundaries become the sites for crack initiation, resulting in premature failure of TiN coatings. In this paper, we report the use of amorphous SiNx to periodically interrupt the growth of TiN in order to suppress the columnar structure. The growth was performed in a dual-cathode unbalanced reactive magnetron sputtering system. The resulting TiN/SiNx multilayer coatings, when deposited under optimum conditions (TiN layer thickness = 2.0 nm, SiNx layer thickness = 0.5 nm and substrate bias = -80 to -90 V) are smooth and exhibit an equiaxed grain structure with no evidence of columnar growth. The highest hardness is in excess of 45 GPa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-214
Number of pages6
JournalSurface and Coatings Technology
StatePublished - Sep 2001


  • Columnar structure
  • Equiaxed structure
  • Internal stress
  • Surface roughness
  • TiN/SiN multilayer hard coatings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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