As the demands for wear-resistant coatings in the cutting industry are constantly rising, new materials that have the potential to exhibit enhanced coating properties are continuously explored. Chemical vapor deposited (CVD) Zr(N,C) is a promising alternative to the well-established and thoroughly investigated Ti(C,N) coating system, owing to its advantageous mechanical and thermal properties. Thus, within this work, CVD ZrN, ZrCN and ZrC coatings were deposited at 1000 ◦ C, and subsequently their microstructure and mechanical properties were investigated in detail. Scanning electron microscopy, electron backscatter diffraction and X-ray diffraction experiments revealed that all coatings exhibited a columnar structure and a fiber texture, where ZrN and ZrCN displayed a <100> preferred orientation in growth direction and ZrC showed a <110> texture. Tensile residual stresses that arise due to a mismatch in the coefficient of thermal expansion between the cemented carbide substrate and the coating material decreased with the addition of C to the coatings. No stress relaxation through thermal crack formation was observed in the coatings. The highest hardness was determined for the ZrC coating with 28.1 ± 1.0 GPa and the lowest for the ZrN coating with 22.1 ± 0.9 GPa. Addition of C to the ZrN coating increased the hardness to 26.1 ± 1.6 GPa, which can be explained by a more covalent bonding character, as well as by solid solution strengthening. The ZrCN coating exhibited the highest Young’s modulus, followed by the ZrC and ZrN coatings, which can be attributed to differences in their electronic band structure.
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Funding: The financial support by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and the National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development is gratefully acknowledged. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support under the scope of the COMET program within the K2 Center “Integrated Computational Material, Process and Product Engineering (IC–MPPE)” (Project No. 859480). This program is supported by the Austrian Federal Ministries for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) and for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW), represented by the Austrian research funding association (FFG), and the federal states of Styria, Upper Austria and Tyrol.
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