In this work, the influence of Tb-doping on structure, and especially hardness of nanocrystalline TiO2 thin films, has been described. Thin films were formed by a high-energy reactive magnetron sputtering process in a pure oxygen atmosphere. Undoped TiO2-matrix and TiO2:Tb (2 at. % and 2.6 at. %) thin films, had rutile structure with crystallite sizes below 10 nm. The high-energy process produces nanocrystalline, homogenous films with a dense and close packed structure, that were confirmed by X-ray diffraction patterns and micrographs from a scanning electron microscope. Investigation of thin film hardness was performed with the aid of a nanoindentation technique. Results of measurements have shown that the hardness of all manufactured nanocrystalline films is above 10 GPa. In the case of undoped TiO2 matrix, the highest hardness value was obtained (14.3 GPa), while doping with terbium results in hardness decreasing down to 12.7 GPa and 10.8 GPa for TiO2:(2 at. % Tb) and TiO2:(2.6 at. % Tb) thin films, respectively. Incorporation of terbium into TiO2-matrix also allows modification of the elastic properties of the films.
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