A two-phase nanocomposite coating that consists of inclusions of silver in a vanadium nitride matrix (VN/Ag) was investigated as a potential adaptive coating with a reduced friction coefficient from 25 to 1000 °C. This nanocomposite structure was selected based on the premise that silver and silver vanadate phases would form on the surface of these coatings, reducing their friction coefficient in the (i) room to mid-range and (ii) mid-range to high temperatures, respectively. Silver and vanadium were expected to react with oxygen at high temperatures and create a lubricious silver vanadate film on the coating. The VN/Ag coatings were deposited using unbalanced magnetron sputtering and their elemental composition was evaluated using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The tribological properties of the materials against Si3N4 balls were investigated at different temperatures. The lowest friction coefficients recorded for samples with identical compositions were 0.35, 0.30, 0.10 and 0.20 at 25, 350, 700 and 1000 °C, respectively. Post-wear testing Raman spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements revealed the formation of silver vanadate compounds on the surface of these coatings. In addition, real time Raman spectroscopy and high temperature XRD revealed that silver vanadate, vanadium oxide and elemental silver formed on the surface of these coatings upon heating to 1000 °C. Upon cooling, silver and vanadium oxide were found to combine at about 400 °C, leading predominantly to the formation of silver vanadate phases on the surface of these materials.
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