Restricting Dislocation Movement in Transition Metal Carbides by Phase Stability Tuning

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Science  28 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5539, pp. 2434-2437
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060512

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A mechanism to enhance hardness in multilayer coatings is proposed. Using the technologically important hard transition metal carbides as prototypes, although the principle is transferable also to other systems, we demonstrate, from first-principles calculations, that by suitable alloying the energy difference between several competing structures in the transition metal carbides is small or tunable. This creates multiphase/polytypic compounds with a random or controllable layer stacking sequence, systems in which the propagation of dislocations can be strongly suppressed by a large number of interfaces between structures with different glide systems, accordingly allowing the possibility of a greatly enhanced hardness. With modern thin-film technologies, it should therefore be possible to deposit such materials that will express multilayer characteristics with only minor changes in the chemical constitution of the material, which is in contrast to conventional superlattices.

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