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Mechanical properties and decohesion of sol–gel coatings on metallic and glass substrates


The sol–gel coating method is considered to be simple and easy to implement to lead to organic/inorganic hybrid coatings. In addition, the application of thin films by this technique is inexpensive and applicable on large substrates without form restriction. In this context, thin sol–gel coatings based on a mixture of three alkoxysilanes and synthesized in purely aqueous phase with different thicknesses and with the presence or not of ZrO2 nanoparticles, were applied on metallic and glass substrates. After application and curing, the mechanical properties of sol–gel coatings were characterized by Berkovich nanoindentation with continuous stiffness measurement mode (CSM). The effective elastic moduli as well as the hardness values were estimated for each coating along the indentation depth and as a function of the substrate material and sol–gel characteristics. The effect of a annealing at higher temperature was also studied. Then, the failure modes of sol–gel coatings were investigated using both Berkovich nanoindentation and nanoscratch technique with a 5 µm radius spherical diamond tip. Careful microscopic observations of residual imprints and residual grooves both exhibit chipping in case of thick coating especially on glass substrate and no dramatic failure for thin coating applied on both substrates. It is shown in this work that the mechanical properties of the sol–gel and the mechanical stability of coatings on substrates are influenced dramatically by the presence of nanoparticles and the thermal treatment. Finally, interfacial fracture toughness of sol–gel coatings on substrate was estimated using analytical model from the literature and Ashby map based on experimental results was created using performance indices in order to proceed to sol–gel coating selection.


  • Mechanical characterization of sol–gel coatings using a combination of different nanomechanical experiments.

  • Effects of nanoparticles addition and thermal treatment on mechanical coating stability.

  • Construction of Ashby map using experimental results for sol–gel coating selection.

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The authors would like to thank the MecaTech Cluster and the Walloon region for the financial support, in the frame of the Nanosol project. The authors would also like to thank the Walloon region for financial support in the frame of the INDMAT project (BEWARE FELLOWSHIPS), co-funded by the European Union (FP7—Marie Curie Actions). The authors are grateful to Luiza Bonin (UMons) for the 3D microscopic visualization and to Recayi Bilgic (CRM Group) for the AFM observations of residual indents and scratches.

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Correspondence to David Mercier.

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Mercier, D., Nicolay, A., Boudiba, A. et al. Mechanical properties and decohesion of sol–gel coatings on metallic and glass substrates. J Sol-Gel Sci Technol 93, 229–243 (2020).

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  • Organic/inorganic hybrid coatings
  • Nanoindentation
  • Nanoscratch
  • Failure mode
  • Interfacial fracture toughness
  • Selection map