A new class of electrically conductive, wear resistant, and high thermal stability nanocrystalline noble metal coatings achieved by codeposition of an insoluble, unreactive, and thermally stable, grain boundary segregated ceramic species that strengthens the base metal by inhibiting grain boundary mobility and recrystallization during deposition. These coatings exhibit high hardness and wear resistance while maintaining electrical conductivity effectively equivalent to that of the pure, fine-grained base metal. The coatings exhibit relatively low friction coefficients in nominally unlubricated sliding, and high thermal stability. The friction, wear, and electrical contact characteristics of these coatings are comparable or superior to electroplated hard gold films used extensively in electrical contact applications. The use of physical vapor deposition techniques such as electron beam evaporation provides an environmentally friendly alternative to electroplating for the synthesis of high performance hard gold films.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
 This invention was made with Government support under contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U. S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.