A composite material having high hardness comprises a carbon nitrogen compound, such as CN.sub.x where x is greater than 0.1 and up to 1.33, deposited on a metal or metal compound selected to promote deposition of substantially crystalline CN.sub.x. The carbon nitrogen compound is deposited on a crystal plane of the metal or metal compound sufficiently lattice-matched with a crystal plane of the carbon nitrogen compound that the carbon nitrogen compound is substantially crystalline. A plurality of layers of the compounds can be formed in alternating sequence to provide a multi-layered, superlattice coating having a coating hardness in the range of 45-55 GPa, which corresponds to the hardness of a BN coating and approaches that of a diamond coating.
CONTRACTURAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION
This invention was made with Government support under Grant Number: NSF MSS-9203239 awarded by the National Science Foundation and DEFG02-90ER45434 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government may have certain rights in the invention.