Nanostructured multilayer coatings of aluminium and aluminium oxide with tungsten

Burgmann, F 2007, Nanostructured multilayer coatings of aluminium and aluminium oxide with tungsten, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Applied Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Nanostructured multilayer coatings of aluminium and aluminium oxide with tungsten
Author(s) Burgmann, F
Year 2007
Abstract The development of nanostructured coatings which exhibit enhanced mechanical properties is currently of interest due to the importance of high performance coatings in a large range of applications. Single layer coatings have predominantly been used for these demanding applications, however the promising mechanical properties observed in multilayer coatings has shifted the focus of current research. In particular, there has been reports of the use of alternating materials with opposing mechanical properties, as seen in the abalone shell, which have exhibited hardness and toughness values significantly greater than either of their constituent materials. The main objective of this thesis was to fabricate Al/W nanostructured multilayers and determine if they exhibit enhanced mechanical properties.

The Al/W nanostructured multilayers were fabricated using two different deposition techniques: pulsed magnetron sputtering and cathodic arc deposition. These two techniques differ in the energy of the depositing species and this results in significant differences in film properties. The indentation hardness of the coatings was measured using a Hysitron Nanoindenter. The relationship between the mechanical properties and microstructure was obtained using a range of characterisation techniques. Auger electron spectroscopy (AES), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) were used to determine the chemical composition and stoichiometry, while cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy (XTEM) and energy filtered transmission electron microscopy (EFTEM) were used to explore the microstructure.

The findings of this thesis showed very different results for the two deposition techniques. Although sputtering successfully produced well defined multilayers, no evidence of enhanced hardness was found for periods between 5 and 200 nm. On the other hand, arc deposited samples with intended periods between 1 and 200 nm showed a hardness enhancement above that of pure W, however the samples of highest hardness did not contain Al layers for much of their thickness. Arc deposited samples with the finest nominal periods (1 and 2 nm) contained W-Al intermetallics and were soft. The hardening mechanism was not attributed to a multilayer structure, rather to the introduction of defects in the W layers which acted as pinning sites for dislocations. A modified Hall-Petch equation for hardness enhancement fitted the data for W films prepared by pulsed cathodic arc in which the grain diameter was replaced by the nominal multilayer period. The difficulty producing Al layers on W surfaces in the cathodic arc was overcom e by changing the film growth mechanism by introducing Ar or O2 at the W/Al interface. In the latter case, Al2O3/W multilayers were formed but again showed no hardness enhancements. Complete microanalysis and characterisation of the multilayer structures is vital in determining the mechanisms which govern the hardness enhancements. The evidence in this thesis suggests that the defect density, and not the presence of interfaces are responsible for the hardness enhancement effect.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Applied Sciences
Keyword(s) Coatings
Nanotechnology Materials
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