Effects of gas flow on detailed microstructure inhomogeneities in LPCVD TiAlN nanolamella coatings
Journal article, 2020
Depositing homogeneous TiAlN coatings with a high Al content on cutting tool inserts is a challenging task. In this work, high-Al cubic Ti1-xAlxN coatings (average x = 0.8) with periodic Ti(Al)N (x = 0.5) and Al(Ti)N (x = 0.9) nanolamellae structure were synthesized by low pressure chemical vapour deposition (LPCVD) with different gas flow velocities, and the detailed microstructure was investigated by electron microscopy and simulations. Using a high gas flow rate, the columnar TiAlN grains with regular periodic nanolamella structures disappeared, the coating became enriched in Ti and hexagonal AlN (h-AlN) formed in the coating. The high Ti content is suggested to be caused by the high gas flow rate that increases the mass transport of the reactants. However, this does not influence the Al-deposition much as it is mainly limited by the surface kinetics due to the relatively low deposition temperature. Density functional theory (DFT) modelling and electron microscopy showed that h-AlN tends to form on the Ti(Al)N phase with a specific crystallographic orientation relationship. The Ti enrichment due to high gas flow rate promotes the formation of h-AlN, which therefore deteriorates the nanolamella structure and causes the disappearance of the columnar TiAlN grains. Thus, by designing the CVD process conditions to avoid too high gas flow rates, homogenous TiAlN coatings with high Al content and nanolamella structures can be deposited, which should yield superior cutting performance.
Transmission electron microscopy