Structural and Mechanical Properties of Fluorine-Containing TaCxNy Thin Films Deposited by Reactive Magnetron Sputtering

J. H. Hsieh*, Chuan Li*, Weite Wu, S. L. Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

2 Scopus citations


TaN thin-film coatings are well known for their good mechanical properties, acceptable toughness, as well as good biocompatibility. However, the friction coefficient of these films is some-times too high, or the hemocompatibility is poor. The purpose of this study is to reduce the friction coefficient and increase the hydrophobicity of TaN coatings by introducing carbon and fluorine into the coatings. This study has never been conducted by other researchers. Fluorine-containing tanta-lum carbonitride (i.e., F–TaCxNy) top layers were deposited on TaN/Ta interlayers by reactive sputtering with fixed nitrogen and various hexafluoroethane (C2F6) mass flow rates. During the deposition process, C2F6 gas with various mass flow rates was added. After deposition, these F–TaCxNy multi-layered films were then characterized using XRD, XPS, FTIR, FESEM, WDS, a nano-indenter, a water contact-angle measurement system, and a tribometer. The tribological tests were carried out in the environment with and without humidity. The surface energies of the films were examined with water contact-angle variation. According to structural analysis, TaN phase would transform to TaCxNy with the increase in the C2F6 mass flow rate, which would result in a decrease in the friction coefficient and an increase in hydrophobicity. The films’ hardness (H, increased at most by 20%), elastic modulus (E), and H/E ratio first increased then decreased, most likely due to the increase in relatively soft C–F bonding. According to the results obtained from tribotesting, it was found that an increase in carbon and fluorine contents in the films reduces the friction by more than 30%, and wear rate by more than 50%. More importantly, the effects of moisture on the friction coefficient can be minimized to almost nothing. In a water contact-angle study, the contact angle increased from 60° to 85° with the increase in C2F6 mass flow rates. This evidence illustrated that hemocompatibility of the TaN thin film can be significantly enhanced through the formation of Ta– C and C–Fx bonding. The chemical composition and bonding status of these films, especially the existence of C–Fx bonds, were studied by FTIR and XPS. In sum, with the increased C2F6 mass flow rate, the carbon and fluorine contents in the films increased, while the nitrogen content decreased. The structure, bonding status, and compositions varied accordingly. The tribological behaviors were significantly improved. Furthermore, by carrying out tribotesting in humid air and a dry argon environment, it was confirmed that the greater the fluorine content, the less sensitive the films would be to environment change. This is attributable to the induced lower surface energy and reduced adsorption to water vapor due to the increase in C–Fx bonds. The successfully fabricated and studied F–TaCxNy films could be applied in many areas such as artificial blood vessels, or precision components in an atmospheric or vacuum environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number508
Issue number4
StatePublished - 04 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • TaCxNy
  • fluorine
  • magnetron sputtering
  • mechanical properties
  • structure
  • thin films


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