High-entropy transition metal nitride thin films alloyed with Al: Microstructure, phase composition and mechanical properties

Pshyk, A. V.; Vasylenko, A.; Bakhit, B.; Hultman, L.; Schweizer, P.; Edwards, T. E.J.; Michler, J.; Greczynski, G.

Materials and Design 219 (2022)

Deviation from equimolar composition in high-entropy multielement ceramics offers a possibility of fine-tuning the materials’ properties for targeted application. Here, we present a systematic experimental and theoretical study on the effects of alloying equimolar pentanary (TiHfNbVZr)N and hexanary (TiHfNbVZrTa)N high-entropy nitrides with Al. Although being predicted to be metastable by ab initio density-functional theory calculations, single-phase fcc NaCl-structured solid solution thin films with Al solubility limits as high as x ∼ 0.51–0.61 in (TiHfNbVZr)1-xAlxN and x ∼ 0.45–0.64 in (TiHfNbVZrTa)1-xAlxN are synthesised utilizing a hybrid deposition technique that offers dynamic mixing of film atoms from Al+ subplantation and non-equilibrium growth conditions leading to quenching of the desired film structure. In experimental studies supplemented with density-functional theory calculations, it is demonstrated that Al concentration in alloys with the multielement compositions of high-entropy nitride thin films determine hardness, yield strength, toughness, and ability to deform plastically up to fracture due to different deformation mechanisms arising from the electronic structure and phase compositions.