Structure and properties of magnetron sputtered Zr-Si-N films with a high (≥25 at.%) Si content

J. Musil, R. Daniel, P. Zeman, O. Takai

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63 Citations (Scopus)


The Zr-Si-N films were deposited using an unbalanced dc reactive magnetron sputtering of the alloyed ZrSi2 target in a mixture of argon and nitrogen onto steel and silicon substrates. This article reports on a systematic investigation of dependences of the structure, elemental composition, mechanical properties and oxidation resistance of Zr-Si-N films with a high (≥25 at.%) Si content on the partial pressure of nitrogen pN2, magnetron discharge current Id, total sputtering gas pressure p T, substrate temperature Ts and dc and pulsed substrate bias Us. It was demonstrated that (i) ZrSi2 films sputtered in (a) a pure argon (pN2=0) and (b) Zr-Si-N films sputtered at very low values of pN2≤0.03 Pa are crystalline, electrically conductive, optically opaque and exhibit a relatively high value of the microhardness H≈17-20 GPa; (ii) Zr-Si-N films sputtered at p N2≥0.1 Pa are X-ray amorphous, electrically insulating, optically transparent and exhibit (a) a high microhardness H of about 30 GPa and (b) a low compressive macrostress σ of about -1.2 GPa; (iii) an increase in the substrate temperature Ts from 300 to 750 °C has no effect on the structure and H of as-deposited films; the structure of the Zr-Si-N film sputtered at Ts=750 °C remains X-ray amorphous and its hardness H does not decrease with increasing Ts, i.e. it is approximately the same (≈30 GPa) as that of the film sputtered at Ts=500 °C; (iv) the Zr-Si-N films with high (≥25 at.%) Si content and high H≈30 GPa can be produced in the metallic mode of sputtering, i.e. they can be produced approximately four times faster than the binary nitrides such as, for instance, the TiN films; and (v) the Zr-Si-N films with a high (≥55 vol. %) content of the a-Si3N4 phase, composed of a mixture of a-Si 3N4+ZrNx>1 phases, exhibit a high oxidation resistance in flowing air, greater than 1300 °C.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-247
Number of pages10
JournalThin Solid Films
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005


  • DC reactive magnetron sputtering
  • High (≥25 at.%) Si content
  • Mechanical properties
  • Oxidation resistance
  • Structure
  • Zr-Si-N films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Materials Chemistry

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