Crystallization characteristics and chemical bonding properties of nickel carbide thin film nanocomposites

  • Furlan A
  • Lu J
  • Hultman L
 et al. 
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The crystal structure and chemical bonding of magnetron-sputtering deposited nickel carbide Ni$_{1-x}$C$_{x}$ (0.05$\leq$x$\leq$0.62) thin films have been investigated by high-resolution X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy. By using X-ray as well as electron diffraction, we found carbon-containing hcp-Ni (hcp-NiC$_{y}$ phase), instead of the expected rhombohedral-Ni$_{3}$C. At low carbon content (4.9 at\%) the thin film consists of hcp-NiC$_{y}$ nanocrystallites mixed with a smaller amount of fcc-NiC$_{x}$. The average grain size is about 10-20 nm. With the increase of carbon content to 16.3 at\%, the film contains single-phase hcp-NiC$_{y}$ nanocrystallites with expanded lattice parameters. With further increase of carbon content to 38 at\%, and 62 at\%, the films transform to X-ray amorphous materials with hcp-NiC$_{y}$ and fcc-NiC$_{x }$ nanodomain structures in an amorphous carbon-rich matrix. Raman spectra of carbon indicate dominant $sp^{2}$ hybridization, consistent with photoelectron spectra that show a decreasing amount of C-Ni phase with increasing carbon content. The Ni $3d$ - C $2p$ hybridization in the hexagonal structure gives rise to the salient double-peak structure in Ni $2p$ soft X-ray absorption spectra at 16.3 at\% that changes with carbon content. We also show that the resistivity is not only governed by the amount of carbon, but increases by more than a factor of two when the samples transform from crystalline to amorphous.

Author-supplied keywords

  • amorphous nanocomposites
  • magnetron sputtering
  • thin film coatings
  • transition metal carbides

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  • Andrej Furlan

  • Jun Lu

  • Lars Hultman

  • Ulf Jansson

  • Martin Magnuson

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