In the present study, authors report on the effect that substrate bias voltage has on the microstructure and mechanical properties of (Ti, Al)N hard coatings deposited with cathodic arc evaporation (CAE) technique. The coatings were deposited from a Ti0.5Al0.5 powder metallurgical target in a reactive nitrogen atmosphere at three different bias voltages: UB = −25, −50 and −100 V. The coatings were characterized in terms of compositional, microstructural and mechanical properties. Microstructure of the coatings was investigated with the aid of X-ray diffraction in glancing angle mode, which revealed information on phase composition, crystallite size, stress-free lattice parameter and residual stress. Mechanical properties were deduced from nano-indentation measurements. The residual stress in all the coatings was compressive and increased with increasing bias voltage in a manner similar to that reported in literature for Ti–Al–N coatings deposited with CAE. The bias voltage was also found to significantly influence the phase composition and crystallite size. At −25 V bias voltage the coating was found in single phase fcc-(Ti, Al)N and with relatively large crystallites of ∼9 nm. At higher bias voltages (−50 and −100 V), the coatings were found in dual phase fcc-(Ti, Al)N and fcc-AlN and the size of crystallites reduced to approximately 5 nm. The reduction of crystallite size and the increase of compressive residual stress with increasing bias voltage both contributed to an increase in hardness of the coatings.
Volume 42 | Issue 3