© 2005 American Institute of Physics

Published in Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 87 No. 4 (2005) at doi: 10.1063/1.2001141


Nanocomposite films of ZrN–Me (Me=Ag, Au, or Pd) were prepared using reactive unbalanced magnetron sputtering. The hardness and elastic modulus were measured by nanoindention and were found to vary differently with composition for the three nanocomposite structures. Young’s modulus was found to decrease much more dramatically with the increase in Me content for the ZrN–Ag system. These findings were attributed to the weaker bonding mechanism at the interface between the ceramic and the metallic phases, which is more prone to grain-boundary sliding as shown using first-principles calculations of the electronic structure at the interface for the three systems.