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Nb-B-C thin films for electrical contact applications deposited by magnetron sputtering
7. N. Nedfors, O. Tengstrand, J. Lu, P. O. A. Persson, P. Eklund, L. Hultman, and U. Jansson, “Synthesis and characterization of multifunctional carbide- and boride-based thin films,” Ph.D. dissertation (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2014).
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The high wear resistance, high chemical inertness, and high electrical conductivity of magnetron-sputtered transition metal diborides make them a candidate material for sliding electrical contacts. However, their high hardness makes it difficult to penetrate surface oxides, resulting in a high electrical contact resistance. In this study, the authors have investigated how the contact resistance can be improved by the formation of softer Nb-B-C films. The Nb-B-C films were deposited by magnetron sputtering and shown to exhibit a nanocomposite microstructure consisting of nanocrystalline NbB2−x grains with a solid solution of C separated by an amorphous BCx phase. The formation of the BCx phase reduces the hardness from 41 GPa for the NbB2−x film to 19 GPa at 36 at. % C. As a consequence the contact resistance is drastically reduced and the lowest contact resistance of 35 mΩ (contact force 5 N) is achieved for a film containing 30 at. % C. However, crack formation and subsequent delamination and fragmentation is observed for the C-containing Nb-B-C films in tribology tests resulting in high friction values for these films.
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