The borides of transition and rare-earth metals are considered for application as wear- and corrosion-resistant, decorative or thermionic coatings. After a review of physical vapor deposition (PVD) techniques used for the deposition of these coatings, a survey of investigations to apply these coatings is given. As a result of the strong directionality of covalent boron-boron bonds, boride coatings show an increasing tendency to amorphous film growth with increasing B/Meatomic ratio and, for rare-earth hexaborides, with decreasing metallic radius of the rare-earth metal. Mechanical and optical properties are strongly influenced by the crystallographic structure of the boride phase. Because of their high hardness combined with good adhesion, crystalline films based on the diborides of transition metals seem to be promising candidates for wear resistant coatings on cutting tools. Alloying of these films with nitrogen by reactive PVD processes results in the formation of extremely fine-grained multiphase hard coatings with excellent tribological and corrosion behavior, thus offering new applications in the coating of engineering components. Because of their distinct colorations, some of the hexaborides of rare-earth elements may be used as decorative coatings on consumer products like wristwatch casings or eyeglass frames. Another promising field is the development of thermionic coatings based on rare-earth hexaborides, which may offer the possibility of the production of inexpensive and simple high emission filaments. © 1997 Academic Press.
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