Toughness enhancement of nanostructured hard coatings: Design strategies and toughness measurement techniques

Chen Wang, Kaicheng Shi, Cameron Gross, Júlio Miranda Pureza, Mônica de Mesquita Lacerda, Yip Wah Chung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


Most hard coatings are based on ceramic materials and are generally brittle. It is desirable to have coatings that are both hard and tough. Here, we review several strategies that can be employed to increase coating toughness while maintaining hardness. Various nanocomposite and multilayer coatings (Ti/TiB2, FeMn/TiB2, Fe/VC and W/VC) were synthesized to explore three such toughening strategies: coherency strain, transformation toughening, and nanograined metals. Practical methods used to measure coating toughness in this work were presented: scratch testing, nanoindentation, and modified Vickers. Results demonstrate that coating systems that exploit these strategies show significantly enhanced toughness compared with those that do not. In particular, the strategy of using nanolayers of a metal with high elastic modulus alternating with spacer layers much thinner than the metal appears to be the most effective. In principle, one can reach hardness values up to 10% of the elastic modulus, while attaining toughness comparable to most nanocrystalline metals. Given that most metals with high elastic moduli are refractory materials, such coatings may also be useful for high-temperature applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalSurface and Coatings Technology
StatePublished - Oct 25 2014


  • Hard coatings
  • Nanolayer coatings
  • Toughness enhancement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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