Structure evolution during deposition and thermal annealing of amorphous carbon ultrathin films investigated by molecular dynamics simulations.
- Author(s): Wang, Shengxi;
- Komvopoulos, Kyriakos
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64625-w
The evolution of the structure of amorphous carbon (a-C) films during deposition and thermal annealing is of significant interest from both the materials science and application perspectives. However, despite the voluminous literature of studies dealing with the deposition and physical properties of a-C films, basic understanding of the structure evolution due to phase change during film growth and heating is fairly sparse and empirical, presumably due to the lack of high-resolution instruments that can probe structural changes at the atomic and molecular levels in real time. Molecular dynamics (MD) is a powerful computational method for studying atomic/molecular-scale movement and interactions. Thus, the objective of this study was to perform MD simulations that provide insight into changes in the structure of ultrathin a-C films during deposition and annealing. Simulation results reveal a multi-layer film structure, even for a-C films as thin as ~20 Å, the existence of a deposition energy that yields a-C films with the highest sp3 content, the transient and steady-state stages of the structure evolution during annealing at different temperatures, and the changes in the hybridization state (mainly in the bulk layer) encountered during annealing at elevated temperatures. The MD results of this study are of particular importance to applications where the deposition conditions and operation temperature affect the structure and, in turn, the physical properties of ultrathin a-C films used as protective overcoats.