Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coatings were fabricated by electrodeposition from a modified Watt’s type electrolyte containing ZrO2 nanoparticles, where an ultrasonic field was imposed during electrodeposition process. The weight percent of ZrO2 in coatings and the surface morphology of coatings were examined. The microhardness and tribological properties of Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coatings and pure Ni coating were investigated. The results show that ultrasonic agitation can greatly affect the microstructure and the tribological behavior of Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coatings. The Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coatings record variable ZrO2 contents and surface morphologies by modifying ZrO2 concentration in electrolyte and ultrasonic parameters. The Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coating fabricated with ultrasonic agitation exhibits finer grains and more compact structure compared to pure Ni coating and the Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coating fabricated without ultrasonic agitation. The dispersed ZrO2 nanoparticles in coatings and ultrasonic agitation during electrodeposition synthetically contribute to the grain refinement of the coatings. Therefore, the Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coating by ultrasonic electrodeposition exhibits high microhardness and excellent tribological behavior. In general, the improvement in friction and wear properties of Ni-ZrO2 nanocomposite coatings can be attributed to the homogeneously dispersed ZrO2 nanoparticles and the finer-grained structure.

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