Pulsed laser deposition of AlMgB14 thin films

Britson, Jason
Major Professor
Alan M. Russell
Committee Member
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Materials Science and Engineering

Hard, wear-resistant coatings of thin film borides based on AlMgB14 have the potential to be applied industrially to improve the tool life of cutting tools and pump vanes and may account for several million dollars in savings as a result of reduced wear on these parts. Past work with this material has shown that it can have a hardness of up to 45GPa and be fabricated into thin films with a similar hardness using pulsed laser deposition. These films have already been shown to be promising for industrial applications. Cutting tools coated with AlMgB14 used to mill titanium alloys have been shown to substantially reduce the wear on the cutting tool and extend its cutting life. However, little research into the thin film fabrication process using pulsed laser deposition to make AlMgB14 has been conducted.

In this work, research was conducted into methods to optimize the deposition parameters for the AlMgB14 films. Processing methods to eliminate large particles on the surface of the AlMgB14 films, produce films that were at least 1μm thick, reduce the surface roughness of the films, and improve the adhesion of the thin films were investigated. Use of a femtosecond laser source rather than a nanosecond laser source was found to be effective in eliminating large particles considered detrimental to wear reduction properties from the films. Films produced with the femtosecond laser were also found to be deposited at a rate 100 times faster than those produced with the nanosecond laser. However, films produced with the femtosecond laser developed a relatively high RMS surface roughness around 55nm. Attempts to decrease the surface roughness were largely unsuccessful. Neither increasing the surface temperature of the substrate during deposition nor using a double pulse to ablate the material was found to be extremely successful to reduce the surface roughness. Finally, the adhesion of the thin films to M2 tool steel substrates, assessed using the Rockwell C indentation adhesion test, was found to be substantially improved by the deposition of a titanium interlayer, but unaffected by increasing the temperature of the substrates. The titanium was found to improve the adhesion strength of the films because it reacted with both the steel and the AlMgB14 compound to form new compounds. Ultimately, it was concluded that the films with the best properties were produced with a femtosecond pulsed laser and were deposited on top of a titanium interlayer to improve the thin film adhesion.