The synthesis of nanocrystalline diamond films from carbon-containing noble gas plasmas is described. The nanocrystallinity is the result of new growth and nucleation mechanisms, which involve the insertion of C, carbon dimer, into carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds, resulting in hetereogeneous nucleation rates on the order 1010 cm−2 s−1. Extensive characterization studies led to the conclusion that phase-pure diamond is produced with a microstructure consisting of randomly oriented 3–15-nm crystallites.

By adjusting the noble gas/hydrogen ratio in the gas mixture, a continuous transition from micro- to nanocrystallinity is achieved. Up to 10% of the total carbon in the nanocrystalline films is located at 2 to 4 atom-wide grain boundaries. Because the grain boundary carbon is π-bonded, the mechanical, electrical, and optical properties of nanocrystalline diamond are profoundly altered.

Nanocrystalline diamond films are unique new materials with applications in fields as diverse as tribology, cold cathodes, corrosion resistance, electrochemical electrodes, and conformal coatings on MEMS devices.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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