Journal of Materials Research


Influence of Deposition Parameters on the Composition and Structure of Reactively Sputtered Nanocomposite TaC/a-C:H Thin Films

Ryan D. Evansa1 c1, Jane Y. Howea2, James Bentleya2, Gary L. Dolla3 and Jeffrey T. Glassa4

a1 The Timken Company, Canton, Ohio 44706; and Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106

a2 Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831

a3 The Timken Company, Canton, Ohio 44706

a4 Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708


The properties of nanocomposite tantalum carbide/amorphous hydrocarbon (TaC/a-C:H) thin films depend closely on reactive magnetron sputtering deposition process conditions. The chemical composition and structure trends for TaC/a-C:H films were obtained as a function of three deposition parameters: acetylene flow rate, applied direct current (dc) bias voltage, and substrate carousel rotation rate. Films were deposited according to a 23 factorial experimental design to enable multiple linear regression modeling of property trends. The Ta/C atomic ratio, hydrogen content, total film thickness, TaC crystallite size, and Raman spectra were statistically dependent on acetylene flow rate, applied dc bias voltage, or both. Transmission electron microscopy revealed a nanometer-scale lamellar film structure, the periodicity of which was affected mostly by substrate carousel rotation rate. The empirical property trends were interpreted with respect to hypothesized growth mechanisms that incorporate elements of physical vapor deposition and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition.

(Received March 30 2005)

(Accepted June 28 2005)

Key Words:

  • Composite;
  • Physical vapor deposition (PVD);
  • Plasma-enhanced CVD (PECVD)


c1 Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail: