Chemical Interaction of Hydrogen Radicals (H*) with Transition Metal Nitrides

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Transition metal nitrides (TMNs) are reported as protective coatings in reactive hydrogen environments. Although the permeation of H2 through TMN coatings is well reported, their reducibility in H* environments is less investigated. In this work, we categorize the interaction of H* with ambient exposed TiN, ZrN, HfN, VN, NbN, and TaN thin films at 700 °C into three classes. We find that in TiN and VN samples, H*-induced reduction was limited to the surface (≈ top 2 nm). Significant denitridation was observed in ZrN and HfN samples beneath the surface, along with an increase in the transition metal oxide (TMOx) fraction. Denitridation was observed in NbN and TaN samples as well, but the increase in the TMOx content was less than for ZrN and HfN. We propose a model in three steps: hydrogenation, formation of volatile species, and diffusion of subsurface atoms to the surface. We show that the interaction of H* with TiN, ZrN, HfN, VN, NbN, and TaN with partially oxidized surfaces can be explained using the preferred hydrogenation pathway (based on the work functions) and the thermodynamic driver for forming volatile species (NH3 and H2O; based on the change in Gibbs free energy).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17770-17780
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of physical chemistry C
Issue number36
Early online date6 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2023


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