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Concept: Sputter deposition


We report the fabrication of a highly flexible indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode that is completely transparent to light in the visible spectrum. The electrode was fabricated via the formation of a novel ITO nanoarray structure, consisting of discrete globular ITO nanoparticles superimposed on an agglomerated ITO layer, on a heat-sensitive polymer substrate. The ITO nanoarray spontaneously assembled on the surface of the polymer substrate by a simple sputter coating at room temperature, without nanolithographic or solution-based assembly processes being required. The ITO nanoarray exhibited a resistivity of approximately 2.3 × 10(-3) Ω cm and a specular transmission of about 99% at 550 nm, surpassing all previously reported values of these parameters in the case of transparent porous ITO electrodes synthesized via solution-based processes at elevated temperatures. This novel nanoarray structure and its fabrication methodology can be used for coating large-area transparent electrodes on heat-sensitive polymer substrates, a goal unrealizable through currently available solution-based fabrication methods.

Concepts: Light, Solar cell, Indium tin oxide, Liquid crystal display, Indium(III) oxide, Indium, Transparent electrodes, Sputter deposition


The passive film on the surface of titanium can be destroyed by immersion in a fluoridated acidic medium. Coating with titanium nitride (TiN) may improve the corrosion resistance of titanium.

Concepts: Oxygen, Metal, Titanium, Corrosion, Nitrides, Titanium nitride, Sputter deposition, Plasma nitriding


This paper reports on the use of Zr-based (Zr53Cu33Al9Ta5) thin film metallic glass (TFMG) for the coating of syringe needles and compares the results with those obtained using titanium nitride and pure titanium coatings. TFMG coatings were shown to reduce insertion forces by ∼66% and retraction forces by ∼72%, when tested using polyurethane rubber block. The benefits of TFMG-coated needles were also observed when tested using muscle tissue from pigs. In nano-scratch tests, the TFMG coatings achieved a coefficient of friction (COF) of just ∼0.05, which is about one order of magnitude lower than those of other coatings. Finite-element modeling also indicates a significant reduction in injection and retraction forces. The COF can be attributed to the absence of grain boundaries in the TFMG coating as well as a smooth surface morphology and low surface free energy.

Concepts: Energy, Metal, Titanium, Friction, Hypodermic needle, Syringe, Corrosion, Sputter deposition


In the aluminum die casting process, erosion, corrosion, soldering, and die sticking have a significant influence on tool life and product quality. A number of coatings such as TiN, CrN, and (Cr,Al)N deposited by physical vapor deposition (PVD) have been employed to act as protective coatings due to their high hardness and chemical stability. In this study, the wear performance of two nanocomposite AlTiN and AlCrN coatings with different structures were evaluated. These coatings were deposited on aluminum die casting mold tool substrates (AISI H13 hot work steel) by PVD using pulsed cathodic arc evaporation, equipped with three lateral arc-rotating cathodes (LARC) and one central rotating cathode (CERC). The research was performed in two stages: in the first stage, the outlined coatings were characterized regarding their chemical composition, morphology, and structure using glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy (GDOES), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and X-ray diffraction (XRD), respectively. Surface morphology and mechanical properties were evaluated by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nanoindentation. The coating adhesion was studied using Mersedes test and scratch testing. During the second stage, industrial tests were carried out for coated die casting molds. In parallel, tribological tests were also performed in order to determine if a correlation between laboratory and industrial tests can be drawn. All of the results were compared with a benchmark monolayer AlCrN coating. The data obtained show that the best performance was achieved for the AlCrN/Si₃N₄ nanocomposite coating that displays an optimum combination of hardness, adhesion, soldering behavior, oxidation resistance, and stress state. These characteristics are essential for improving the die mold service life. Therefore, this coating emerges as a novelty to be used to protect aluminum die casting molds.

Concepts: Electron, Cathode, Materials science, Scanning electron microscope, Coatings, Casting, Corrosion, Sputter deposition


A facile nonsubjective method was designed to measure porous nonconductive iron oxide film thickness using a combination of a focused ion beam (FIB) and scanning electron microscopy. Iron oxide films are inherently nonconductive and porous, therefore the objective of this investigation was to optimize a methodology that would increase the conductivity of the film to facilitate high resolution imaging with a scanning electron microscopy and to preserve the porous nature of the film that could potentially be damaged by the energy of the FIB. Sputter coating the sample with a thin layer of iridium before creating the cross section with the FIB decreased sample charging and drifting, but differentiating the iron layer from the iridium coating with backscattered electron imaging was not definitive, making accurate assumptions of the delineation between the two metals difficult. Moreover, the porous nature of the film was lost due to beam damage following the FIB process. A thin layer plastication technique was therefore used to embed the porous film in epoxy resin that would provide support for the film during the FIB process. However, the thickness of the resin created using conventional thin layer plastication processing varied across the sample, making the measuring process only possible in areas where the resin layer was at its thinnest. Such variation required navigating the area for ideal milling areas, which increased the subjectivity of the process. We present a method to create uniform thin resin layers, of controlled thickness, that are ideal for quantifying the thickness of porous nonconductive films with FIB/scanning electron microscopy.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Oxygen, Metal, Ion, Scanning electron microscope, Focused ion beam, Sputter deposition


HfO2-ZrO2 solid-solution films were prepared by radio frequency (rf) sputtering and subsequent annealing process were optimized to render the enhanced ferroelectric behavior. Target power, working pressure, and reactive gas partial pressure were varied along with annealing ambience, time and temperature. Then, the film’s structural and electrical properties were carefully scrutinized. Oxygen deficient conditions were necessary during the sputter deposition to suppress grain growth, while annealing under O2 ambience was critical to avoid defects and leakage problems. It is expected that the grain size difference under various deposition conditions combined with the degree of TiN bottom and top electrode oxidation under O2 ambience resulted in different ferroelectric behaviors. As a result, Hf0.5Zr0.5O2 prepared by rf sputtering showed the optimized ferroelectricity at 0% of oxygen reactive gas with doubled remnant polarization value of ~20 µC/cm2 at its thickness of 11 nm. Film growth conditions with a higher growth rate (4-5 nm/minute) were favorable to achieve the ferroelectric phase film, which feasibly suppresses the grain growth and accompanying monoclinic phase formation.

Concepts: Oxygen, Fundamental physics concepts, Nitrogen, Materials science, Gas, Thin film, Plasma, Sputter deposition


The objective of this study was to evaluate the in vivo wear resistance of cobalt-chromium femoral components coated with titanium nitride (TiN). Our null hypothesis was that the surface damage and the thickness of the TiN coating do not correlate with the time in vivo.

Concepts: Hypothesis, Titanium, Null hypothesis, Tribology, Surface engineering, Nitrides, Titanium nitride, Sputter deposition


Porous and photoelectrochemically active Fe-doped WO3 nanostructures were obtained by a combinatorial dealloying method. Two types of precursor materials libraries, exhibiting dense and nano-columnar morphology were fabricated by using two distinct magnetron sputter deposition geometries. Both libraries were subjected to combinatorial dealloying enabling preparation and screening of a large quantity of compositions having different nanostructures. This approach allows identifying materials with interesting photoelectrochemical characteristics. The dealloying process selectively dissolved Fe from the composition gradient precursor W-Fe materials library, resulting in formation of monoclinic single crystalline nanoblade-like structures over the entire surface. Photoelectrochemical properties of nanostructured Fe:WO3 films were found to be composition-dependent. The measurement region doped with ∼1.7 at % Fe and a film thickness of ∼ 900-1100 nm displayed highly porous WO3 nanostructures and exhibited the highest photocurrent density of ∼ 72 μA cm(-2). This enhanced photocurrent density is attributed to the decreased bandgap values, suppressed recombination of electron-hole pairs, improved light absorption as well as efficient charge transport in the highly porous Fe-doped film with single crystalline WO3 nanoblades.

Concepts: Condensed matter physics, Semiconductor, Materials science, Solar cell, Electronic band structure, Nanostructure, Electron hole, Sputter deposition


In recent years, Cu2 ZnSn(S,Se)4 (CZTSSe) materials have enabled important progress in associated thin-film photovoltaic (PV) technology, while avoiding scarce and/or toxic metals; however, cationic disorder and associated band tailing fundamentally limit device performance. Cu2 BaSnS4 (CBTS) has recently been proposed as a prospective alternative large bandgap (~2 eV), environmentally friendly PV material, with ~2% power conversion efficiency (PCE) already demonstrated in corresponding devices. In this study, a two-step process (i.e., precursor sputter deposition followed by successive sulfurization/selenization) yields high-quality nominally pinhole-free films with large (>1 µm) grains of selenium-incorporated (x = 3) Cu2 BaSnS4-x Sex (CBTSSe) for high-efficiency PV devices. By incorporating Se in the sulfide film, absorber layers with 1.55 eV bandgap, ideal for single-junction PV, have been achieved within the CBTSSe trigonal structural family. The abrupt transition in quantum efficiency data for wavelengths above the absorption edge, coupled with a strong sharp photoluminescence feature, confirms the relative absence of band tailing in CBTSSe compared to CZTSSe. For the first time, by combining bandgap tuning with an air-annealing step, a CBTSSe-based PV device with 5.2% PCE (total area 0.425 cm(2) ) is reported, >2.5× better than the previous champion pure sulfide device. These results suggest substantial promise for the emerging Se-rich Cu2 BaSnS4-x Sex family for high-efficiency and earth-abundant PV.

Concepts: Device, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Sputter deposition


We present a new type of nanoporous antireflection (AR) coating based on grass-like alumina with a graded refractive index profile. The grass-like alumina AR coating is fabricated using atomic layer deposition (ALD) of alumina and immersion in heated de-ionized water. Optical transmittance of 99.5% at 500 nm was achieved with average transmittance of 99.0% in the range of 350-800 nm, at normal incidence for double-side coated glass. Angular spectral transmittance (0°- 80°) of the double-side AR coated glass was also measured in the range of 350-800 nm, and found to have mean spectral transmittance of 94.0% at 60°, 85.0% at 70° and 53.1% at 80° angle of incidence, respectively. The grass-like alumina AR coating is suitable for mass production as with the presented technique even hundreds of optical components can be coated in parallel. Furthermore, as an ALD based technique the coating can be deposited conformally on surfaces with extreme topography, unlike many spin-coating, physical vapour deposition or glancing angle deposition based coatings used today.

Concepts: Snell's law, Refraction, Total internal reflection, Coatings, Angle of incidence, Ray, Sputter deposition, Chemical processes