Nanoindentation-induced deformation behaviour of tetrahedral amorphous carbon coating deposited by filtered cathodic vacuum arc
The nanoindentation-induced deformation behaviour of a ta-C (tetrahedral amorphous carbon) coating deposited on to a silicon substrate by a filtered vacuum cathodic vapour arc technique was investigated. The 0.17-μm-thick ta-C coating was subjected to nanoindentation with a spherical indenter and the residual indents were examined by cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy. The hard (~ 30 GPa) ta-C coatings exhibited very little localized plastic compression, unlike the softer amorphous carbon coatings deposited by plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition. However, neither through-thickness cracks nor delamination was observed in the coating for the loads studied. Rather, the silicon substrate exhibited plastic deformation for indentation loads as low as 10 mN and at higher loads it showed evidence of both phase transformation and cracking. These microstructural features were correlated to the observed discontinuities in the load-displacement curves. Further, it was observed that even a very thin coating can modify the primary deformation mechanism from phase transformation in uncoated Si to predominantly plastic deformation in the underlying substrate.