Nucleation of nanocrystalline diamond on masked/unmasked Si3N4 ceramics with different mechanical pretreatments


Results are presented concerning different mechanical pretreatments performed on silicon nitride substrates and their influence on the nucleation and growth of nanocrystalline diamond (NCD). All substrates were equally sintered and finished, but differently pretreated. Then, they were diamond coated in a microwave chemical vapor deposition system (MPCVD) for relatively short periods, using Ar/H-2/CH4 gas mixtures. The main objective was to identify the best pretreatment among those proposed, while verifying how it correlates with film uniformity and surface roughness after post-growth. The effect of a molybdenum mask during growth is investigated. The top surface analysis revealed major differences in the nucleation morphology of diamond nuclei on the pretreated samples, two different nucleation types having been identified. For all pretreatments, samples exhibited a very smooth and uniform underlayer of very fine grain particles before the formation of larger aggregates, suggesting a bi-phase nucleation mechanism. When no mask is used considerable changes in the nucleation concentration are found, the resulting films showing grain enlargement near the edges, where the morphology assumes microcrystalline nature. This effect is suppressed by the use of a mask that allowed obtaining very uniform smooth films (R-rms similar to 30 nm, thickness similar to 1.3 mu m, MUS pretreatment), indicating a strong edge effect for the unmasked case. This fact can be attributed both to increased local temperature, plasma density and gas turbulence. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.



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Materials Science


Neto, MA; Fernandes, AJS; Silva, RF; Costa, FM

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