Key industrial sectors such as automotive and manufacturing industries face enormous challenges with regards to the transformation into a new era, characterized by huge innovations in mobility, environmentally friendly technologies and sustainability. This transformation requires the development of technical solutions based on innovations in materials and their processes, especially in the field of surface engineering and coatings. Currently, there is a strong trend towards making use of computational methods in modeling and simulation to establish a knowledge-based material development. Complementary, clever experimental methods such as combinatorial approaches complete this picture by allowing to implement materials data bases with real physical data (so called materials libraries). This has been well proven in the fields of protective and functional surface coatings and thin films recently.
In this presentation, such combinatorial experiments dedicated to the design and synthesis of multifunctional PVD coatings for applications in automotive and manufacturing applications will be discussed. Three prominent classes of protective thin film materials will be discussed. The presentation will focus on model material systems and conventional magnetron sputtering as a model PVD process to outline major aspects of the materials development. These materials include wear resistant, low friction nanostructured carbon-based composite coatings (consisting of a nanocrystalline transition metal carbide phase and an amorphous carbon phase, e.g. TiC/a-C), novel oxide thin films (with main focus on solid solution thin films with corundum-type structure such as (Al,Cr)2O3), and ternary transition metal diboride thin films (based on TiB2). For all these materials, a brief introduction into the state-of-the-art and newest developments will be given, and main research objectives will be discussed.