Mapping the mechanical properties in nitride coatings at the nanometer scale

Zhang, Z. and Chen, Z. and Holec, D. and Liebscher, C.H. and Koutná, N. and Bartosik, M. and Zheng, Y. and Dehm, G. and Mayrhofer, P.H.

Volume: 194 Pages: 343-353
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2020.04.024
Published: 2020

We report on a multilayered structure comprising of rock-salt (rs) structured CrN layers of constant thickness and AlN layers of varying thicknesses, which surprisingly enables the growth of metastable zinc-blende (zb) AlN layers for certain layer-thickness combinations. The multilayer exhibits an atomic and electronic structure gradient as revealed using advanced electron microscopy and electron spectroscopy. Gradient structures are also accompanied by a modulation of the chemical compositions. A combined experimental analysis based on valence electrons and inner shell electrons allowed mapping the mechanical properties of the multilayer at the nanometer scale and further unveiled the effect of oxygen impurities on the bulk modulus. We found that the presence of oxygen impurities causes a remarkable reduction of the bulk modulus of rs-CrN while having no significant effect on the bulk modulus of the stable wurtzite structure wz-AlN layers. The findings are unambiguously validated by theoretical calculations using density functional theory. © 2020 Acta Materialia Inc.

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