Fullerene-like carbon nitride: A resilient coating material

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Carbon nitride is an emerging material for wear-resistant coatings The fullerene-like CNx compounds generally exhibit extreme elasticity in combination with a low work of indentation hardness. Yet CNx shows a low-to-moderate resistance to penetration, depending on deposition conditions. Since the deformation energy is predominantly stored elastically, the material possesses an extremely resilient character. This new class of materials consists of sp2-coordinated basal planes that are buckled from the incorporation of pentagons and cross-linked at sp3-hybridized C sites, both of which are caused by structural incorporation of nitrogen, Carbon nitride thus deforms elastically due to bending of the structural units. The orientation, radius of curvature of the basal planes, and the degree of cross-linking between them defines the structure and properties of the material. Due to the unique deformation behavior, the hardness requires special care to assess, but can be very high for films with a large degree of cross-linking. This article is a review of the research on CNx films deposited by reactive magnetron sputtering, with examples from our recent work. The findings are significant for the design of fracture-tough materials.

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