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History of diamond-like carbon films - from first experiments to worldwide applications

: Bewilogua, K.; Hofmann, D.


Surface and coatings technology 242 (2014), S.214-225
ISSN: 0257-8972
Fraunhofer IST ()
diamond-like carbon; history; industrial application

Diamond-like carbon (DLC) films combine several excellent properties like high hardness, low friction coefficients and chemical inertness. The DLC coating material can be further classified in two main groups, the hydrogenated amorphous carbon (a-C:H, ta-C:H) and the hydrogen free amorphous carbon (a-C, ta-C). By adding other elements like metals (a-C:H:Me) or non-metal elements like silicon, oxygen, fluorine or others (a-C:H:X), several modifications of the properties can be adjusted according to application requirements. First reports on hard amorphous carbon films were published in the 1950s and about 20 years later there began worldwide intensive research activities on DLC. In the following years the number of publications increased continuously and the importance for industrial applications became more and more evident. Several deposition techniques were applied to prepare a-C:H, ta-C, metal containing a-C:H:Me and non-metal containing a-C:H:X coatings. In parallel the structure and deposition mechanisms of DLC coatings were extensively studied. An essential obstacle for a broad industrial application was the high compressive stress level in a-C:H films causing delamination and limiting the film thicknesses. With metal based intermediate layer systems most adhesion problems could be solved satisfactorily and thus from the mid-1990s the pre-conditions for a broad application especially in the automotive industry were given. With modified a-C:H:X and a-C:X coatings a considerable friction reduction or surface energy adjustments could be achieved.