All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Shane A Catledge

Advisory Committee Members

Yogesh K Vohra

Gregg M Janowski

Alan W Eberhardt

Andrei Stanishevsky

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences


Diamond thin films have promising applications in numerous fields due to the extreme properties of diamonds in conjunction with the surface enhancement of thin films. Biomedical applications are numerous including temporary implants and various dental and surgical instruments. The unique combination of properties offered by nanostructured diamond films that make it such an attractive surface coating include extreme hardness, low obtainable surface roughness, excellent thermal conductivity, and chemical inertness. Regrettably, numerous problems exist when attempting to coat stainless steel with diamond generating a readily delaminated film: outward diffusion of iron to the surface, inward diffusion of carbon limiting necessary surface carbon precursor, and the mismatch between the coefficients of thermal expansion yielding substantial residual stress. While some exotic methods have been attempted to overcome these hindrances, the most common approach is the use of an intermediate layer between the stainless steel substrate and the diamond thin film. In this research, both 316 stainless steel disks and 440C stainless steel ball bearings were tested with interlayers including discrete coatings and graded, diffusion-based surface enhancements. Titanium nitride and thermochemical diffusion boride interlayers were both examined for their effectiveness at allowing for the growth of continuous and adherent diamond films. Titanium nitride interlayers were deposited by cathodic arc vacuum deposition on 440C bearings. Lower temperature diamond processing resulted in improved surface coverage after cooling, but ultimately, both continuity and adhesion of the nanostructured diamond films were unacceptable. The ability to grow quality diamond films on TiN interlayers is in agreement with previous work on iron and low alloy steel substrates, and the similarly seen inadequate adhesion strength is partially a consequence of the lacking establishment of an interfacial carbide phase. Surface boriding was implemented using the novel method of microwave plasma CVD with a mixture of hydrogen and diborane gases. On 440C bearings, dual phase boride layers of Fe2B and FeB were formed which supported adhered nanostructured diamond films. Continuity of the films was not seamless with limited regions remaining uncoated potentially corresponding to delamination of the film as evidenced by the presence of tubular structures presumably composed of sp2 bonded carbon. Surface boriding of 316 stainless steel discs was conducted at various powers and pressures to achieve temperatures ranging from 550-800 °C. The substrate boriding temperature was found to substantially influence the resultant interlayer by altering the metal boride(s) present. The lowest temperatures produced an interlayer where CrB was the single detected phase, higher temperatures yielded the presence of only Fe2B, and a combination of the two phases resulted from an intermediate boriding temperature. Compared with the more common, commercialized boriding methods, this a profound result given the problems posed by the FeB phase in addition to other advantages offered by CVD processes and microwave generated plasmas in general. Indentation testing of the boride layers revealed excellent adhesion strength for all borided interlayers, and above all, no evidence of cracking was observed for a sole Fe2B phase. As with boriding of 440C bearings, subsequent diamond deposition was achieved on these interlayers with substantially improved adhesion strength relative to diamond coated TiN interlayers. Both XRD and Raman spectroscopy confirmed a nanostructured diamond film with interfacial chromium carbides responsible for enhanced adhesion strength. Interlayers consisting solely of Fe2B have displayed an ability to support fully continuous nanostructured diamond films, yet additional study is required for consistent reproduction. This is in good agreement with initial work on pack borided high alloy steels to promote diamond film surface modification. The future direction for continued research of nanostructured diamond coatings on microwave plasma CVD borided stainless steel should further investigate the adhesion of both borided interlayers and subsequent NSD films in addition to short, interrupted diamond depositions to study the interlayer/diamond film interface.