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Influence of argon gas flow on mechanical and electrical properties of sputtered titanium nitride thin films



AbstractTitanium nitrides have good mechanical, tribological, electrical, biomedical, and optical properties; therefore, they are used to harden and protect cutting and sliding surfaces, as semiconductor devices, and as a nontoxic exterior for biomedical applications. The dependence of the mechanical and electrical properties of titanium nitride thin films deposited on silicon substrates by direct-current reactive magnetron sputtering technique on argon gas flow (in the range of 8 to 20 sccm) was investigated. The crystallographic structure of the films was studied by X-ray diffraction (XRD), while surface morphology was studied using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Mechanical and electrical properties of these films were investigated by nanoindentation test and a four-point probe instrument, respectively. The XRD patterns showed titanium nitride (TiN) formation with a face-centered cubic structure for all samples. It was also observed that (111) crystallographic direction was the preferred orientation for TiN thin films which became more pronounced with increasing argon gas flow. The AFM images showed a granular structure for TiN layers. The hardness, crystallite/grain size (obtained from XRD and AFM), and surface roughness increased with the flow of argon gas, while elastic modulus and dislocation density in the films decreased. The study on electrical properties showed that the dependence of voltage with current for all samples was linear, and film resistivity was increased with argon gas flow.