Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Anne C Reilly

Committee Member

Brian Holloway


In this study, the chemical bonding in hard and elastic amorphous carbon nitride (a-CNx) films is investigated with x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and 15N, 13C, and 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The films were deposited by DC Magnetron sputtering in a pure nitrogen discharge on Si(001) substrates at 300--400??C. Nanoindentation measurements reveal an elastic modulus of ∼50 GPa and a hardness of ∼5 GPa, thus confirming our films are highly elastic but resist plastic deformation.;Our 13C NMR study demonstrates the absence of sp 3-bonded carbon in this material. Collectively, our N(1s) XPS, 13C NMR, and 15N NMR data suggest a film-bonding model that has an aromatic carbon structure with sp2-hybridized nitrogen incorporated in heterocyclic rings. We demonstrate that the nitrogen bonding is predominantly in configurations similar to those in pyridine and pyrrole. In addition, the data indicate that the a-CNx films prepared for this study have low hydrogen content, but are hydrophilic. Specifically, results from 15N and 13C cross polarization (CP) and 1H magic angle spinning (MAS) NMR experiments suggest that nitrogen sites are susceptible to protonation from water absorbed during sample preparation for the NMR experiments. The sensitivity of the surface of a-CNx to water absorption may impact tribological applications for this material.;In accord with our XPS and NMR spectroscopic studies on a-CN x films, we propose a film-structure model consisting of buckled graphitic planes that are cross-linked together by sp2 hybridized carbons. The curvature and cross-linking is attributed to a type of compound defect, which is formed by placing a pentagon next to single-atom vacancy in a graphite layer. Our proposed film structure is called the pentagon-with-vacancy-defect (5VD) model. Using Hartree-Fock calculations, we show that the 5VD, film-structure model is compatible with our XPS, NMR, and nanoindentation measurements and with previous transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and computational work.



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