Infoscience

Thesis

A theoretical study of disorder and decomposition in multinary nitrides hard coatings materials

The development of multinary nitrides materials has revolutionised the hard coatings industry over the last 20 years. Especially important materials systems in this matter have been TiAlN and CrAlN which shows higher hardness, better oxidation resistance and can perform at higher temperatures as compared to TiN. When synthesised through physical vapour deposition techniques these system form cubic rock salt structured Ti1-xAlxN and Cr1-xAlxN solid solutions as a metastable phase over a large part of the concentration range. One of the main objectives during the optimisation of the coatings has been to increase the amount of Al in the coating while still keeping the rock salt structure, avoiding phase separation and the formation of hexagonal wurtzite AlN. However, in Al-rich TiAlN coatings it was found that isostructural decomposition within the cubic phase was in fact beneficial for the coatings performance at working temperatures just below 1000 °C. The reason was that the formation of strained coherent c-AlN domains within the grains initiated a age-hardening of the coating. In the CrAlN coatings it is possible to solve a larger amount of Al in the cubic phase. Possibly connected to this fact is that no isostructural decomposition and in principle no age hardening has been observed in rock salt structured Cr1-xAlxN. Although large series of experimental investigations have been performed on these systems, no systematic theoretical study has yet been undertaken. This theoretical work is an attempt by means of first-principles calculations together with thermodynamics considerations within the framework of alloy theory, to close or decrease the knowledge gap between experimental observations of cutting performance of various coatings and the fundamental quantum mechanical and thermodynamics processes that governs it. We first consider the structural properties of the treated mixed nitride systems. The concept of atomic misfit or volume difference, which is well known in the community is studied and the physics that leads to a positive deviation from Vegard's rule is revealed. Then the TiAlN and CrAlN systems are studied in detail. A clear connection between the development of the electronic structure with composition and the mixing enthalpy of the alloys, and thus the tendency for decomposition, is found for TiAlN. The importance of magnetic effects on the thermodynamics of mixing in CrAlN is established leading to a qualitative lower tendency for decomposition. Since the nitrogen composition can deviate substantially from perfect stoichiometry in these systems, a study of the influence of nitrogen vacancies on the decomposition pattern of TiAlN in the cubic phase is performed. The results imply that a presence of nitrogen sub-stoichiometry in Al-rich TiAlN will enhance the tendency for isostructural decomposition. The achieved results including those for the systems ScAlN and HfAlN are compared and discussed especially by considering volume misfit and electronic bandstructure effects as driving forces for coherent and incoherent decomposition.

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