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Complex phase compositions in nanostructured coatings as evidenced by photoelectron spectroscopy: The case of Al–Si–N hard coatings

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3 Author(s)
Pelisson-Schecker, Aude ; Laboratory for Nanoscale Materials Science, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, EMPA, Überlandstrasse 129, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland ; Hug, Hans Josef ; Patscheider, Jorg

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The chemical state evolution of the Al–Si–N thin films at various Si contents is investigated by x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The detailed evolution of the Al 2p, Si 2p, and N 1s photoelectrons line positions and widths are used to identify different chemical environments as the Si content is changed. The results are compared to x-ray diffraction (XRD) data that indicate the formation of a two-phase Al1-xSixN/SiNy composite when the solubility limit of 6 at. % of Si in AlN is exceeded. In contrast to XRD data, no particular effect is observed in the XPS data at the solubility limit of Si. Instead, two compositional regions can be identified that are separated by a distinct change in the evolution of core level binding energy differences and chemical shifts at about 10–15 at. % of Si. This silicon concentration is identified as the onset of the formation of a SiNy intergranular phase that is a few monolayers thick, having a chemical bonding similar to that in bulk silicon nitride. The observed changes in the XPS data coincide well with the structural changes in the material at different silicon contents. The unambiguous identification of phases, especially of minority phases from XPS data, is, however, not possible.

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Journal of Applied Physics  (Volume:108 ,  Issue: 2 )