Microstructure and materials properties of understoichiometric TiBx thin films grown by HiPIMS

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© 2020 The Authors TiBx thin films with a B content of 1.43 ≤ x ≤ 2.70 were synthesized using high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) and direct-current magnetron sputtering (DCMS). HiPIMS allows compositions ranging from understoichiometric to overstoichiometric dense TiBx thin films with a B/Ti ratio between 1.43 and 2.06, while DCMS yields overstoichiometric TiBx films with a B/Ti ratio ranging from 2.20 to 2.70. Excess B in overstoichiometric TiBx thin films from DCMS results in a hardness up to 37.7 ± 0.8 GPa, attributed to the formation of an amorphous B-rich tissue phase interlacing stoichiometric TiB2 columnar structures. We furthermore show that understoichiometric TiB1.43 thin films synthesized by HiPIMS, where the deficiency of B is found to be accommodated by Ti-rich planar defects, exhibit a superior hardness of 43.9 ± 0.9 GPa. The apparent fracture toughness and thermal conductivity of understoichiometric TiB1.43 HiPIMS films are 4.2 ± 0.1 MPa√m and 2.46 ± 0.22 W/(m·K), respectively, as compared to corresponding values for overstoichiometric TiB2.70 DCMS film samples of 3.1 ± 0.1 MPa√m and 4.52 ± 0.45 W/(m·K). This work increases the fundamental understanding of understoichiometric TiBx thin films and their materials properties, and shows that understoichiometric films have properties matching or going beyond those with excess B.

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