An investigation of thin amorphous carbon-based sputtered coatings for MEMS and micro-engineering applications


The work presented in this thesis describes an investigation into the production and properties of thin amorphous C films, with and without Cr doping, as a low wear / friction coating applicable to MEMS and other micro- and nano-engineering applications. Firstly, an assessment was made of the available testing techniques. Secondly, the optimised test methods were applied to a series of sputtered films of thickness 10 - 2000 nm in order to: (i) investigate the effect of thickness on the properties of coatingslcoating process (ii) investigate fundamental tribology at the nano-scale and (iii) provide a starting point for nanotribological coating optimisation at ultra low thickness. The use of XPS was investigated for the determination of Sp3/Sp2 carbon bonding. Under C 1s peak analysis, significant errors were identified and this was attributed to the absence of sufficient instrument resolution to guide the component peak structure (even with a high resolution instrument). A simple peak width analysis and correlation work with C KLL D value confirmed the errors. The use of XPS for Sp3/Sp2 was therefore limited to initial tentative estimations. Nanoindentation was shown to provide consistent hardness and reduced modulus results with depth (to < 7nm) when replicate data was suitably statistically processed. No significant pile-up or cracking of the films was identified under nanoindentation. Nanowear experimentation by multiple nanoscratching provided some useful information, however the conditions of test were very different to those expect for MEMS and micro- / nano-engineering systems. A novel 'sample oscillated nanoindentation' system was developed for testing nanowear under more relevant conditions. The films were produced in an industrial production coating line. In order to maximise the available information and to take account of uncontrolled process variation a statistical design of experiment procedure was used to investigate the effect of four key process control parameters. Cr doping was the most significant control parameter at all thicknesses tested and produced a softening effect and thus increased nanowear. Substrate bias voltage was also a significant parameter and produced hardening and a wear reducing effect at all thicknesses tested. The use of a Cr adhesion layer produced beneficial results at 150 nm thickness, but was ineffective at 50 nm. Argon flow to the coating chamber produced a complex effect. All effects reduced significantly with reducing film thickness. Classic fretting wear was produced at low amplitude under nanowear testing. Reciprocating sliding was produced at higher amplitude which generated three body abrasive wear and this was generally consistent with the Archard model. Specific wear rates were very low (typically 10-16 - 10-18 m3N-1m-1). Wear rates reduced exponentially with reduced film thickness and below (approx.) 20 nm, thickness was identified as the most important control of wear.

Divisions: College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
Additional Information: Available on request on
Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: thin amorphous carbon-based sputtered coatings,MEMS,micro-engineering applications
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2024 07:56
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2010 11:42
Completed Date: 2008
Authors: Wilson, Gavin M.


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