Diamond-like carbon (DLC) films have been extensively applied in industries owing to their excellent characteristics such as high hardness. In particular, there is a growing demand for their use as protective films for mechanical parts owing to their excellent wear resistance and low friction coefficient. DLC films have been deposited by various methods and many deviate from the DLC regions present in the ternary diagrams proposed for sp3 covalent carbon, sp2 covalent carbon, and hydrogen. Consequently, redefining the DLC region on ternary diagrams using DLC coatings for mechanical and electrical components is urgently required. Therefore, we investigate the sp3 ratio, hydrogen content, and other properties of 74 types of amorphous carbon films and present the classification of amorphous carbon films, including DLC. We measured the sp3 ratios and hydrogen content using near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure and Rutherford backscattering-elastic recoil detection analysis under unified conditions. Amorphous carbon films were widely found with nonuniform distribution. The number of carbon atoms in the sp3 covalent carbon without bonding with hydrogen and the logarithm of the hydrogen content were inversely proportional. Further, we elucidated the DLC regions on the ternary diagram, classified the amorphous carbon films, and summarized the characteristics and applications of each type of DLC.
Keywords: carbon; classification; diamond-like carbon; hydrogenated amorphous carbon; industrial application; near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure; sp2 hybridization; sp3 hybridization; tetrahedral amorphous carbon.