The mechanical properties of WC–SiC thin films deposited by dual radio frequency magnetron sputtering were investigated. The films were characterized by x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction (XRD), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to evaluate the details of the microstructure and degree of amorphization. The results indicate that small additions of SiC (<25%) can significantly increase hardness compared to a pure WC film, but higher SiC contents do not strongly affect hardness. XRD studies show the SiC had a disordering effect. TEM results showed that WC films had coarse porous structure, but films with a low silicon carbide content (approximately 10 to 25 at%) had a denser nanocrystalline structure. Samples with greater than 25% SiC were amorphous. The initial hardness increase at lower SiC contents correlated well with the observed densification, but the transition to an amorphous structure did not strongly affect hardness.
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