Micro/nanomechanical and tribological characterization of ultrathin amorphous carbon coatings, deposited by filtered cathodic arc (FCA), direct ion beam (IB), electron cyclotron resonance plasma chemical vapor deposition (ECR-CVD), and sputter (SP) deposition processes on Si substrate have been conducted using a nanoindenter with a nanoscratch attachment and an accelerated ball-on-flat tribometer. Coating thicknesses of 20, 10, 5 nm and, for the first time, 3.5 nm coatings have been investigated. It was found the FCA coating exhibits the highest hardness and elastic modulus, followed by the ECR-CVD, IB, and SP coatings. In general, the thicker coatings exhibited better scratch/wear performance than the thinner coatings due to their better load-carrying capacity as compared to the thinner coatings. At 20 nm, the FCA and ECR-CVD coatings show the best scratch and wear resistance, while the IB and ECR-CVD coatings show the best scratch and wear resistance at 10 nm. Five nanometer thick coatings show reasonable scratch and wear resistance, while 3.5 nm thick coatings show extremely low load-carrying capacity and poor scratch and wear resistance. It appears that the 3.5 nm coatings studied are unfeasible for scratch and wear resistance applications as of now.
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