High temperature nanomechanical properties of sub-5 nm nitrogen doped diamond-like carbon using nanoindentation and finite element analysis

Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 129, Issue 13, April 2021. Nitrogen doped diamond-like carbon (NDLC) is a candidate protective coating in state-of-the-art heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) media. To ensure the robustness of the media particularly at higher temperature applications, mechanical properties of ultra-thin sub 5-nm NDLC coatings are of great interest. Due to instrument limitations and very shallow films, it is very challenging to accurately measure sub-5 nm NDLC films and other HAMR components from experiments without substrate effects. In this study, very shallow nanoindentations were performed, and the results were fitted with finite element analysis using a modified indenter geometry to predict the elastic modulus and yield strength of NDLC films of two different thicknesses (3.5 and 4.5 nm) and other components without any substrate effect. Results showed that higher NDLC film thickness led to better elastic modulus and yield strength at 25 °C before and after heating and at 300 °C. Hardness to yield strength ratio (H/Y) for NDLC films was also determined and found within the range of 2.2–2.8, which is higher than the H/Y ratio of DLC films from earlier studies. This implied the dependence of H/Y ratio on the thickness, temperature conditions, and chemical structure of NDLC films. Results also showed that the yield strength of FeCo metal layer and glass substrate in HAMR media decreased at 300 °C, but almost fully recovered to their initial properties after removal of heat.