Nanocomposite thin films successfully promote hardness, oxidation resistance, improved wear behavior, and other properties relevant for wear-reducing coatings. Such coatings are composed of nanocrystalline grains of transition-metal nitrides or carbides surrounded by an amorphous hard matrix. The properties of nanocomposite coatings, especially hardness, are directly linked to nanostructure. The codeposition of the amorphous and nanocrystalline phases of different compositions results in different morphologies, which in turn affect the coating's properties. A maximum hardness ranging from 30 GPa to reported values above 60 GPa has been observed for most nanocomposite coatings. To obtain enhanced hardness, the domain size of the nanocrystalline phase must be below 10 nm, while the thickness of the amorphous layer separating the nanocrystals must be maintained at only a few atomic bond lengths. The prime reason for the hardness enhancement is the absence of dislocation activity.
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