Structure and Properties of ZrON Coatings Synthesized by Cathodic Arc Evaporation

The transition metal oxynitrides are a coating material with decorative features due to their adjustable color and good mechanical properties. The purpose of the research was to study the effect of the relative oxygen concentration O2(x) = O2/(N2 + O2) in particular on adhesion, but also on the color, structural and mechanical properties of ZrON coatings synthesized by cathodic arc evaporation on HS6-5-2 steel substrates. The surface morphology, phase and chemical composition and mechanical properties were determined using scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, nanoindentation and scratch test. It was found that color of the coatings changed from light yellow for ZrN first to gold and then to graphite for Zr-O phase with increase of oxygen concentration. X-ray diffraction patterns showed that the phase separation of ZrN and ZrO2 occurred for about 35 at.% of oxygen in the coating. Increase in oxygen concentration in the coatings led to decrease in crystallite size from about 20 nm for ZrN to about 5 nm for coatings with about 35 at.% of oxygen and about 25 at.% of nitrogen. An increase in hardness from about 26 GPa for ZrN to about 30 GPa for coating with small concentration of oxygen (about 9 at.%) and then decrease to about 15 GPa was observed. Adhesion of Zr-O-N coatings demonstrated strong dependence on oxygen concentration. Critical load for ZrN is about 80 N and decreases with oxygen concentration increase to about 30 N for ZrO2.

Source: Materials