© 2006 American Institute of Physics

Published in Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 88 No. 2 (2006) at doi: 10.1063/1.2164391


Nanocomposite films of ZrN-Me (Me = Ag, Au, or Pd) were produced by reactive unbalanced magnetron sputtering and were found to form a dense and homogeneous microstructure whereby nanocrystals of Me are distributed evenly throughout the ZrN matrix. Interestingly, the Young’s modulus was found to decrease much more dramatically with the increase in metal content for the ZrN-Ag system. A systematic ab initio study was undertaken to understand the mechanism of grain boundary sliding in these nanostructures. The maximum energy variation during the sliding was found to be the largest and the smallest for ZrN-Pd and ZrN-Ag, respectively.