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  1. Metal oxide thermal reduction, enabled by microwave-induced plasma, was used to synthesize high entropy borides (HEBs). This approach capitalized on the ability of a microwave (MW) plasma source to efficiently transfer thermal energy to drive chemical reactions in an argon-rich plasma. A predominantly single-phase hexagonal AlB2-type structural characteristic of HEBs was obtained by boro/carbothermal reduction as well as by borothermal reduction. We compare the microstructural, mechanical, and oxidation resistance properties using the two different thermal reduction approaches (i.e., with and without carbon as a reducing agent). The plasma-annealed HEB (Hf0.2, Zr0.2, Ti0.2, Ta0.2, Mo0.2)B2 made via boro/carbothermal reduction resulted in a higher measured hardness (38 ± 4 GPa) compared to the same HEB made via borothermal reduction (28 ± 3 GPa). These hardness values were consistent with the theoretical value of ~33 GPa obtained by first-principles simulations using special quasi-random structures. Sample cross-sections were evaluated to examine the effects of the plasma on structural, compositional, and mechanical homogeneity throughout the HEB thickness. MW-plasma-produced HEBs synthesized with carbon exhibit a reduced porosity, higher density, and higher average hardness when compared to HEBs made without carbon. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. A microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition system was used to synthesize cubic boron nitride (cBN) coatings on diamond seeded silicon substrates using direct current (DC) bias. Effects of the argon (Ar) flow rate and bias voltage on the growth of the cBN coatings were investigated. Hydrogen (H2), argon (Ar), a mixture of diborane in H2 (95% H2, 5% B2H6), and N2 were used in the feed gas. A DC bias system was used for external biasing of the sample, which facilitates the goal of achieving sp3 bonded cBN. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) revealed the existence of sp3-bonded BN in the produced samples. With increasing Ar flow, the cBN content in the coating increases and reaches a maximum at the maximum Ar flow of 400 SCCM used in this study. High-resolution XPS scans for B1s and N1s indicate that the deposited coating contains more than 70% cBN. This study demonstrates that energetic argon ions generated in a microwave-induced plasma significantly increase cBN content in the coating. 
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  3. Microwave-induced plasma was used to anneal precursor powders containing five metal oxides with carbon and boron carbide as reducing agents, resulting in high entropy boride ceramics. Measurements of hardness, phase structure, and oxidation resistance were investigated. Plasma annealing for 45 min in the range of 1500–2000 °C led to the formation of predominantly single-phase (Hf, Zr, Ti, Ta, Mo)B2 or (Hf, Zr, Nb, Ta, Mo)B2 hexagonal structures characteristic of high entropy borides. Oxidation resistance for these borides was improved by as much as a factor of ten when compared to conventional commercial diborides. Vickers and nanoindentation hardness measurements show the indentation size effect and were found to be as much as 50% higher than that reported for the same high entropy boride configuration made by other methods, with average values reaching up to 38 GPa (for the highest Vickers load of 200 gf). Density functional theory calculations with a partial occupation method showed that (Hf, Zr, Ti, Ta, Mo)B2 has a higher hardness but a lower entropy forming ability compared to (Hf, Zr, Nb, Ta, Mo)B2, which agrees with the experiments. Overall, these results indicate the strong potential of using microwave-induced plasma as a novel approach for synthesizing high entropy borides. 
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  4. Boron nitride (BN) is primarily a synthetically produced advanced ceramic material. It is isoelectronic to carbon and, like carbon, can exist as several polymorphic modifications. Microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition (MPCVD) of metastable wurtzite boron nitride is reported for the first time and found to be facilitated by the application of direct current (DC) bias to the substrate. The applied negative DC bias was found to yield a higher content of sp3 bonded BN in both cubic and metastable wurtzite structural forms. This is confirmed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Nano-indentation measurements reveal an average coating hardness of 25 GPa with some measurements as high as 31 GPa, consistent with a substantial fraction of sp3 bonding mixed with the hexagonal sp2 bonded BN phase. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    A novel approach is demonstrated for the synthesis of the high entropy transition metal boride (Ta, Mo, Hf, Zr, Ti)B2 using a single heating step enabled by microwave-induced plasma. The argon-rich plasma allows rapid boro-carbothermal reduction of a consolidated powder mixture containing the five metal oxides, blended with graphite and boron carbide (B4C) as reducing agents. For plasma exposure as low as 1800 °C for 1 h, a single-phase hexagonal AlB2-type structure forms, with an average particle size of 165 nm and with uniform distribution of the five metal cations in the microstructure. In contrast to primarily convection-based (e.g., vacuum furnace) methods that typically require a thermal reduction step followed by conversion to the single high-entropy phase at elevated temperature, the microwave approach enables rapid heating rates and reduced processing time in a single heating step. The high-entropy phase purity improves significantly with the increasing of the ball milling time of the oxide precursors from two to eight hours. However, further improvement in phase purity was not observed as a result of increasing the microwave processing temperature from 1800 to 2000 °C (for fixed ball milling time). The benefits of microwave plasma heating, in terms of allowing the combination of boro-carbothermal reduction and high entropy single-phase formation in a single heating step, are expected to accelerate progress in the field of high entropy ceramic materials. 
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  6. Abstract

    We report bias enhanced nucleation and growth of boron-rich deposits through systematic study of the effect of a negative direct current substrate bias during microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition. The current flowing through a silicon substrate with an applied bias of −250 V was investigated for a feedgas containing fixed hydrogen (H2) flow rate but with varying argon (Ar) flow rates for 1330, 2670, and 4000 Pa chamber pressure. For 1330 and 2670 Pa, the bias current goes through a maximum with increasing Ar flow rate. This maximum current also corresponds to a peak in substrate temperature. However, at 4000 Pa, no maximum in bias current or substrate temperature is observed for the range of argon flow rates tested. Using these results, substrate bias pre-treatment experiments were performed at 1330 Pa in an Ar/H2plasma, yielding the maximum bias current. Nucleation density of boron deposits were measured after subsequent exposure to B2H6in H2plasma and found to be a factor of 200 times higher than when no bias and no Ar was used. Experiments were repeated at 2670 and 4000 Pa (fixed bias voltage and Ar flow rate) in order to test the effect of chamber pressure on the nucleation density. Compared to 4000 Pa, we find nearly 7 times higher boron nucleation densities for both 1330 and 2670 Pa when the substrate was negatively biased in the Ar/H2plasma. Results are explained by incorporating measurements of plasma optical emission and by use of heterogeneous nucleation theory. The optimal conditions at 1330 Pa for nucleation were used to grow boron-rich amorphous films with measured hardness as high as 58 GPa, well above the 40 GPa threshold for superhardness.

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  7. null (Ed.)
    Boron-rich B-C compounds with high hardness have been recently synthesized by the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. In this paper, we present our successful efforts in the selective growth of microstructures of boron-carbon compounds on silicon substrates. This was achieved by combining microfabrication techniques such as maskless lithography and sputter deposition with the CVD technique. Our characterization studies on these B-C microstructures showed that they maintain structural and mechanical properties similar to that of their thin-film counterparts. The methodology presented here paves the way for the development of microstructures for microelectromechanical system (MEMS) applications which require custom hardness and strength properties. These hard B-C microstructures are an excellent choice as support structures in MEMS-based devices. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Superhard boron-rich boron carbide coatings were deposited on silicon substrates by microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition (MPCVD) under controlled conditions, which led to either a disordered or crystalline structure, as measured by X-ray diffraction. The control of either disordered or crystalline structures was achieved solely by the choice of the sample being placed either directly on top of the sample holder or within an inset of the sample holder, respectively. The carbon content in the B-C bonded disordered and crystalline coatings was 6.1 at.% and 4.5 at.%, respectively, as measured by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. X-ray diffraction analysis of the crystalline coating provided a good match with a B50C2-type structure in which two carbon atoms replaced boron in the α-tetragonal B52 structure, or in which the carbon atoms occupied different interstitial sites. Density functional theory predictions were used to evaluate the dynamical stability of the potential B50C2 structural forms and were consistent with the measurements. The measured nanoindentation hardness of the coatings was as high as 64 GPa, well above the 40 GPa threshold for superhardness. 
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