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 de 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. © 2005 Materials Research Society.
Tantalum carbide;Hydrocarbons;Amorphous materials;Thin films;Magnetron sputtering;Composition;Raman scattering;Transmission electron microscopy;Physical vapor deposition;Plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition;