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Exploring the World of DLC Coating Updated in 2024

Exploring the World of DLC Coating Updated in 2024
DLC Coating

DLC, or Diamond-Like Carbon, is a class of amorphous carbon material that displays some of the typical properties of diamond. It is a high-performance coating that offers remarkable hardness, reduced friction, and high resistance to wear and corrosion, making it an advantageous option for protective surface finishes in various applications. Classified typically by the type of atomic bonds — sp2 (graphite-like) and sp3 (diamond-like), the proportion in which these bonds are present dictates the material properties of DLC coatings. This coating technology is used across diverse industries, from aerospace to automotive and medical devices, reflecting its adaptability and the benefits it confers on base materials.

The Basics of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC)

The Basics of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC)

Understanding Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC)

Diamond-like carbon(DLC) coatings are remarkable for their high hardness, often compared with that of natural diamond, which stands at the apex of the Mohs scale — DLC harnesses harness this characteristic for superior abrasion resistance. Scientifically, the hardness of DLC can be quantified to range between 30-80 gigapascals (GPa) depending on the hybridization of carbon atoms in the amorphous matrix. Moreover, DLC coatings demonstrate a low coefficient of friction, typically between 0.1 and 0.3 in ambient conditions, which is akin to the lubricity found in graphite structures. These properties significantly extend the service life of coated components, as validated by numerous lifecycle tests that show a wear rate reduction of up to 10 times when compared with non-coated substrates. Additionally, DLC coatings are chemically inert and provide excellent resistance to corrosive substances. They are ideal for use in harsh chemical environments or where cleanliness and purity are paramount, such as in biomedical implants and surgical instruments.

Properties of DLC

The inherent properties of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings differentiate them from other thin-film coatings. DLC’s hardness ranges from 30-80 gigapascals (GPa), indicating its ability to resist deformation under load. By comparison, typical hardened steel might only exhibit hardness values up to approximately 8 GPa.

Thermal stability is another critical property of DLC coatings. These coatings maintain their structural integrity up to temperatures of 350-400°C, which accommodates the requirements of high-performance engineering applications.

In terms of electrical properties, DLC coatings typically have resistivity values in the range of 10^5 to 10^16 ohm-cm, which situates them between conductive and insulating materials. This allows for application-specific tuning of DLC for either electrical insulation or conductive purposes.

Optical transparency is also a noteworthy characteristic of certain forms of DLC, specifically those with higher sp3 (diamond-like) bond content. These forms allow for the transmission of infrared and visible light, which is advantageous for optical components.

The tribological performance of DLC is highlighted by its low coefficient of friction, between 0.1 and 0.3 under ambient conditions, which reduces the wear rate on components. Through lifecycle assessments, DLC coatings have been observed to decrease wear rates by up to 90% relative to uncoated substrates.

Furthermore, DLC coatings are biocompatible and resistant to sterilization processes, features that are crucial for medical devices. Their chemical inertness also ensures that they do not degrade or produce harmful byproducts under physiological conditions.

Overall, the versatility of DLC coatings is showcased by this conglomerate of mechanical, thermal, electrical, and optical properties, alongside their commendable tribological and biomedical characteristics.

Applications for DLC Coatings

The diversity in properties of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings enables a broad spectrum of applications across various industries:

  1. Aerospace and Automotive Industries: Owing to their remarkable abrasion resistance and ability to withstand extreme environments, DLC coatings are applied to engine components, gears, and bearings, effectively extending their operational life and reliability.
  2. Cutting Tools and Manufacturing: The coatings significantly improve the wear and tear resistance of cutting tools, allowing for precision machining over extended periods, enhancing manufacturing efficiencies, and reducing downtime.
  3. Electronics: In semiconductor manufacturing, DLC’s unique electrical properties allow for the creation of protective layers on electronic components, resulting in increased durability and performance.
  4. Optics and Photonics: The optical transparency of DLC in the infrared and visible ranges makes it suitable for protective coatings on lenses and optical devices, safeguarding against environmental damage without compromising clarity.
  5. Biomedical Devices: Its biocompatibility and resistance to sterilization make DLC coatings ideal for a wide array of medical devices, including surgical tools, implants, and diagnostic instruments, contributing to higher standards of patient safety and care.
  6. Food Processing: The non-toxic nature of DLC coatings and their resistance to harsh sterilization processes make them suitable for food processing equipment, ensuring sanitary conditions are maintained and cross-contamination risks are minimized.

By harnessing these versatile applications, DLC coatings enhance the functionality and operational lifespan of components and devices across these industry sectors.

Types of DLC Coatings

DLC coatings can be classified based on their structure and the method used for their deposition. The most common types are:

  1. Amorphous Hydrogenated Carbon (a-C: H): Known for its high ratio of sp3 to sp2 carbon bonds, a-C: H coatings exhibit excellent mechanical properties and high corrosion resistance.
  2. Tetrahedral Amorphous Carbon (ta-C): Containing a high percentage of sp3-bonded carbon atoms, ta-C coatings are recognized for extreme hardness and wear resistance, making them suitable for high-load applications.
  3. Amorphous Carbon (a-C): This type of coating, while less wear-resistant than a-C: H and ta-C, provides a cost-effective solution for applications requiring improved frictional properties.
  4. Hydrogen-Free DLC (hf-DLC): These coatings are characterized by their lower hydrogen content and are typically used in environments where hydrogen embrittlement of the substrate material must be avoided.
  5. Metal-Doped DLC: The incorporation of metals into DLC coatings can tailor their electrical conductivity, hardness, and tribological properties for specific applications, such as in the automotive industry.

Each type of DLC coating is designed to augment specific qualities based on the application requirements, thus necessitating a comprehensive understanding of each variant’s attributes to optimize the selection process for the appropriate industry use.

Hydrogenated DLC: Benefits and Applications

Hydrogenated DLC, or a-C: H, is favored in several advanced engineering fields due to its unique set of properties. These coatings provide a highly desirable combination of low friction and high resistance to both wear and corrosion. Under controlled testing, a-C: H coatings demonstrate a friction coefficient often below 0.1, making them particularly effective in reducing energy loss in moving mechanical assemblies. The inclusion of hydrogen within the carbon matrix is instrumental in achieving such performance, as it significantly increases the proportion of diamond-like sp3 bonding.

From a durability perspective, a-C: H coatings exhibit exceptional hardness, often in the range of 10 to 30 GPa, which corresponds to a significant extension of the component life span. Application of a-C: H coatings has been widely adopted in the automotive industry, particularly in fuel injection systems, where reduced friction leads to increased efficiency and performance. Similarly, in the field of biomedical implants, such as artificial joints, a-C: H coatings are used to minimize wear and enhance the longevity of the devices.

What distinguishes a-C: H coatings is also their chemical inertia, which prevents them from reacting with most acids and bases, making them suitable for protective applications in harsh chemical environments. As such, their use extends to the aerospace industry, where material integrity is essential for safety and performance under extreme conditions. The synthesis of a-C: H coatings is achieved through various deposition methods, such as Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD), with the choice of process depending on the specific requirements of the intended application.

Deposition and Properties of DLC Coating

Deposition and Properties of DLC Coating

Methods of Deposition for DLC Coatings

The primary deposition methods for Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings include Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD), Radio Frequency (RF) sputtering, Direct Current (DC) sputtering, and Filtered Cathodic Vacuum Arc (FCVA). Data gleaned from industrial practices indicates that PECVD is the most versatile due to its lower substrate temperature requirements, which make it compatible with a vast range of materials. RF sputtering is acknowledged for its uniform coating deposition on complex geometries, although it is generally slower compared to other processes. DC sputtering allows for high deposition rates and is well-suited for electrically conductive substrates, yet it can be restrictive when dealing with non-conductive materials. FCVA is noted for producing extraordinarily pure and dense coatings with minimal droplet inclusion, which is critical for applications requiring a high level of surface smoothness. Each method presents unique attributes that can be optimized based on the operational environment and the physical properties required of the DLC coating.

Substrates Suitable for DLC Coatings

DLC coatings are notable for their compatibility with a wide array of substrate materials, ranging from metals and alloys to plastics and ceramics. Materials such as steel, aluminum, titanium, and copper are frequently engaged as substrates due to their inherent strength and durability, which are further enhanced by the DLC coatings. When evaluating the suitability of a substrate for DLC application, key factors include the material’s thermal stability, its ability to withstand the deposition process, and the adhesion characteristics with the coating. For instance, non-ferrous metals like aluminum typically require a careful interface layer design to improve adhesion and performance. On the other hand, engineering plastics such as polyethylene and polyamide can be coated with DLC films to reduce wear and friction, but this requires special surface pretreatments and a tailored deposition process to ensure the integrity of the coating on softer and more flexible substrates. The selection of the appropriate substrate material is equally critical as the deposition process. It plays a pivotal role in the ultimate functionality of the DLC coating in its respective application.

Low Friction Properties of DLC Coatings

One of the paramount properties of DLC coatings is their ability to reduce friction between contacting surfaces significantly. Documented studies reveal that the coefficient of friction (COF) for DLC against itself in a dry environment can be as low as 0.1 to 0.15. In contrast, uncoated materials such as steel typically exhibit a COF in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 under similar conditions. This notably common friction characteristic is attributed to the unique structure of DLC, which comprises a matrix of sp^3 (diamond-like) and sp^2 (graphite-like) bonded carbon atoms. This structure enables a self-lubricating effect, valuable in applications such as automotive engine components, where reducing friction correlates directly to enhanced performance and increased lifespan. Notably, the diverse forms of DLC, such as hydrogenated (a-C: H) and tetrahedral amorphous carbon (ta-C), exhibit different friction properties that must be matched with the specific requirements of the application to optimize performance.

Hardness and Wear Resistance of DLC Coatings

The mechanical robustness of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings is often characterized by their hardness and wear resistance. Empirical measurements indicate that the hardness of DLC coatings can range from 15 to 80 GPa, which is comparable to that of natural diamond (the hardest known material, with a hardness of around 70 to 150 GPa). This exceptional hardness translates into superior wear resistance, enabling the coatings to protect underlying substrates from abrasive forces and extend their operational life. Comparative wear tests have demonstrated that DLC-coated materials exhibit a wear rate that is significantly reduced, often by orders of magnitude, compared to uncoated counterparts. For instance, a DLC-coated bearing may show a wear rate as low as 1 x 10^-9 mm^3/Nm, significantly outperforming a typical uncoated steel bearing under identical test conditions. These attributes are particularly beneficial in industrial and high-precision applications, such as in the aerospace and medical device industries, where component longevity and reliability are of utmost concern.

Corrosion Resistance of DLC Coatings

In addition to their mechanical properties, Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings are highly valued for their corrosion resistance. Laboratory tests simulating harsh environments have illustrated that DLC coatings can effectively inhibit the corrosion process. Data reveals that when subjected to a saline fog test—a standardized testing method for assessing corrosion resistance—DLC-coated samples consistently show less corrosion-related mass loss in comparison to uncoated materials. For instance, over a test period, a DLC-coated steel sample may exhibit less than 0.1% of the mass loss experienced by an equivalent uncoated sample. This characteristic is vital in the protection of components exposed to corrosive environments, such as marine hardware or medical implants, thereby significantly prolonging their service life and maintaining their functional integrity.

Comparing DLC Coatings with Other Coating Types

Comparing DLC Coatings with Other Coating Types

DLC Coatings vs. PVD Coatings

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coatings, like DLC, are employed to enhance the surface properties of various substrates, yet they differ in composition and performance. In the context of wear resistance, for example, the coefficient of friction for DLC coatings generally ranges from 0.1 to 0.2. In contrast, PVD coatings, depending on the materials used, can exhibit coefficients from 0.4 to 0.6 under similar conditions. PVD coatings can also have varied thicknesses, often between 1 and 5 micrometers, contrasting DLC coatings that can be applied in layers as thin as 0.5 to 5 micrometers, promoting greater versatility in applications where space or weight constraints are critical. Additionally, PVD coatings may demonstrate a hardness of up to 80 GPa, while DLC coatings can exceed this, attaining hardness levels of up to 90 GPa. These metrics are crucial indicators for industries that prioritize abrasion resistance and durability, such as tools and dies manufacturing.

DLC Coatings vs. Crystalline Diamond Coatings

Crystalline diamond coatings are fundamentally different from DLC coatings in their structural composition; they consist of pure crystalline carbon atoms arranged in a diamond lattice structure. These coatings exhibit exceptional hardness, measured up to 100 GPa, which surpasses most DLC coatings. In terms of thermal conductivity, crystalline diamond leads have values typically exceeding 1000 W/mK, whereas DLC coatings range from 1 to 10 W/mK, depending on the hydrogen content and type of DLC. Furthermore, crystalline diamond coatings provide an excellent level of wear resistance and, under standard testing conditions, may show just a fraction of the wear experienced by DLC coatings, albeit being more costly and complicated to apply. These attributes make crystalline diamond coatings particularly beneficial in applications requiring extreme hardness and high thermal stability, such as cutting tools in the automotive and aerospace industries.

DLC Coatings vs. Amorphous Carbon Coatings

Amorphous carbon coatings, distinct from DLC coatings, are characterized by a non-crystalline form of carbon. These coatings lack a long-range order in their atomic arrangement, which results in variable physical properties. Typical hardness values for amorphous carbon coatings range from 10 to 30 GPa, significantly lower than those of DLC coatings. This discrepancy is primarily attributed to the presence of sp^3 (diamond-like) versus sp^2 (graphite-like) carbon bonding within the structure, with DLC coatings having a higher proportion of sp^3 bonds. The lower hardness levels of amorphous carbon coatings correlate with reduced wear resistance; however, these coatings remain advantageous in applications demanding a balance between surface protection and cost-effectiveness. In terms of thermal conductivity, amorphous carbon coatings generally exhibit lower values, in the range of 5 to 20 W/mK, which is suitable for applications not exposed to extreme temperatures. The application of amorphous carbon coatings, therefore, is particularly relevant in industries that require moderate wear resistance, such as in certain types of seals and bearings.

Industrial and Medical Applications of DLC Coatings

Industrial and Medical Applications of DLC Coatings

Automotive Industry’s Utilization of DLC Coatings

Within the automotive industry, Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings are becoming increasingly prevalent, predominantly for their remarkable ability to minimize friction and wear in engine components. An empirical study indicated that when applied to fuel injectors, DLC coatings reduced the coefficient of friction by approximately 25%, resulting in more efficient operation and an extended lifespan of the parts. Additionally, valve lifters coated with DLC boast a wear resistance that is 3 to 10 times higher than that of uncoated counterparts. Data further suggests that the overall durability of elements such as cam followers, piston rings, and bearings is significantly enhanced with the application of DLC coatings, which directly correlates to the growing demand within the industry. This demand is substantiated by the market analysis, which projects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7% for DLC coatings in automotive applications over the next decade.

Medical and Surgical Applications of DLC Coatings

In the realm of medical device manufacturing and surgical tool enhancement, the use of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings has marked a significant advancement. The biocompatibility and durability of DLC coatings make them highly suitable for orthopedic implants, such as joint replacements, where they help reduce inflammation and wear debris formation. Research evidence showcases that DLC coatings on artificial joints have resulted in decreased failure rates, demonstrating a 60% reduction in wear when compared to traditional metal-on-polyethylene systems. Furthermore, in surgical applications, DLC-coated instruments such as scalpels and saws benefit from the coating’s low friction coefficient. Quantitative data presents a decrease in the required force for incisions, enhancing precision and reducing the risk of tissue trauma. The demand for DLC coatings in medical applications is accentuated by their corrosion resistance, contributing to the increased longevity and sterilization capabilities of the equipment. As per industry analytics, the adoption of DLC coatings in medical applications is anticipated to grow, with projections reflecting a CAGR of 6.8% over the next five years, underlining their growing importance in healthcare advancements.

Optical and Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) Applications

Diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings are utilized in a spectrum of optical and Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) due to their exceptional physical properties. The high optical transparency of DLC makes it suitable for protective coatings on lenses and other optical components, effectively shielding against the abrasive effects of environmental elements without compromising clarity. DLC coatings on MEMS, which include sensors, actuators, and other miniature devices, notably enhance wear resistance and reduce stiction problems, which are crucial for long-term reliability and performance. Recent statistical analysis indicates a rising trend in the use of DLC in MEMS, with a demonstrated improvement in device lifespan by up to 85% in comparison to uncoated counterparts. Additionally, the market for MEMS applications of DLC is projected to expand at a CAGR of 7.5% over the next five years, signaling an increasing reliance on this technology for high-precision components.

Use of DLC Coatings in Aerospace and Military Applications

Diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings are increasingly employed within aerospace and military sectors due to their superior durability and resistance to extreme environmental conditions. In aerospace applications, DLC coatings are applied to critical components such as turbine blades and bearings, where they reduce wear and friction, thereby enhancing performance and fuel efficiency. Military implementations include coated optical elements in targeting systems and protective coatings on firearms, which significantly increase resistance to corrosion and abrasion. Statistical data reveals that with the integration of DLC coatings, there is a notable extension in service intervals by up to 50%, contributing to reduced maintenance costs and improved equipment readiness. Market research anticipates the aerospace and military DLC coating segment will experience a CAGR of approximately 6.2% within the coming decade, reflecting the strategic importance and growth potential of DLC technology in these high-stakes fields.

Other Emerging Applications of DLC Coatings

Emerging applications of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings are manifesting across diverse industries, showcasing their adaptability and functional diversity. Within the automotive sector, DLC coatings are increasingly utilized on engine components such as valves and camshafts to mitigate wear and enhance longevity. The medical sector also leverages DLC’s biocompatible properties, applying them to surgical instruments and orthopedic implants to reduce the risk of wear-induced complications and increase the devices’ lifespan. In the realm of consumer electronics, the coatings are applied to improve the scratch resistance of screens and the durability of moving parts. Data from emerging industrial applications point to DLC coatings significantly reducing machine downtime and extending the replacement cycle of critical components, with an associated decrease in long-term operational costs. The expansion of DLC coatings into these new applications illustrates the material’s versatility and ongoing innovation within the field of advanced material sciences.


  1. Diamond-Like Carbon Coating Market is Expected to…
    • This LinkedIn article discusses the market potential and growth for Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coatings, providing insights into the business side of this technology.
  2. Unleashing the Power of DLC Blades: A Closer Look at Diamond-Like Carbon Coating
    • This blog post from Supreme Trimmer provides a closer look at the advantages of using DLC blades, highlighting the practical applications of this technology.
  3. Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coatings – MDPI
    • This academic paper provides a comprehensive review of DLC coatings, their classification, properties, and applications. It’s an excellent source for in-depth scientific information about DLC coatings.
  4. Essential Guide To DLC Coating
    • This LinkedIn post provides an essential guide to understanding DLC coating, serving as a good starting point for those new to the topic.
  5. PVD & DLC Coating: EVERYTHING You Need To Know
    • This blog post delves into the technical aspects of PVD and DLC coatings, analyzing their differences and highlighting their pros and cons.
  6. Progress in diamond-like carbon coatings for lithium-based
    • This academic article explores the potential of DLC coatings for lithium-based batteries, showcasing another practical application of this technology.
  7. Diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings
    • This article explains how DLC coatings can improve the durability of medical components, demonstrating the wide range of industries that can benefit from this technology.
  8. How Watches Work: What Is DLC Coating? (2021)
    • This blog post from Fratello Watches explains how DLC coating is applied to watch cases, offering a specific example of how this technology is used in the manufacturing process.
  9. What is DLC Coating and Some Facts About It
    • This informative article from The Time Place breaks down what DLC coating is and provides some interesting facts about it, making it a good resource for general knowledge on the topic.
  10. Compilation of Diamond-Like Carbon Properties for…
    • This research paper discusses the properties of DLC coatings on iron and stainless steel, providing valuable chemical insights into the adhesion and protective qualities of these coatings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q: What is a diamond-like carbon coating?

A: A diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating is a type of amorphous carbon material that displays properties similar to those of diamond. It is a nanocomposite with a unique combination of helpful properties from both graphite and diamond. Diamond-like carbon coatings are used extensively to reduce friction and increase wear resistance in many industrial applications.

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Q: How is a hydrogenated amorphous carbon different?

A: Hydrogenated amorphous carbon, unlike non-hydrogenated DLC, contains a significant amount of hydrogen. This type of coating stands out due to its intrinsic flexibility, reduced hardness, and low friction compared to non-hydrogenated DLC or other types of carbon-based coatings. It generally offers excellent wear and gall resistance.

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Q: What are the application and performance requirements for diamond-like carbon coatings?

A: The application and performance requirements for DLC coatings depend on the specific utilization. They are typically chosen for their excellent hardness, low DLC film friction coefficient, and high wear resistance. They are also used in situations where lubrication is difficult or impossible. Other deciding factors may include the coating thickness (usually a few microns) and environmental considerations.

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Q: How is a diamond-like carbon coating applied?

A: DLC coatings are applied using a variety of techniques, most commonly plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition (PACVD) and high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS). Both these techniques have their unique application and production process. For instance, PACVD is used where lower temperatures are required, while HIPIMS technology is used where denser and smoother coatings are necessary.

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Q: What is the typical thickness of a diamond-like carbon coating?

A: The thickness of a DLC coating can vary based on the application, but it typically ranges from 0.1 to 5 microns. The exact coating thickness is crucial in determining its hardness, lubrication, and wear traits, among other properties.

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Q: Where are diamond-like carbon coatings used?

A: DLC coatings are used in a wide variety of industries due to their versatile properties. They are most commonly found in the automotive sector in engine parts, the medical industry for instruments and implants, and in the electronics industry for specific components. They are also used in the mechanical industry for tools and the aerospace industry for various components.

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Q: What is the function of HV in diamond-like carbon?

A: HV refers to Vickers Hardness, a standard measure of hardness used for DLC coatings. Hardness is a crucial property of DLC coatings, influencing the coating’s resistance to wear and indentation. Typical values for DLC are between 1000 and 3000 HV.

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Q: What are the advantages of diamond-like carbon coating?

A: DLC coatings offer many advantages due to their unique properties. They are extremely hard and resistant to wear, reducing the need for lubrication and maintenance. They are also chemically inert and biocompatible, making them suitable for a wide range of applications, from industry to medicine.

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Q: Can DLC coatings be applied to any surface?

A: While DLC coatings can be applied to a wide variety of substrates, the material and surface preparation can affect the coating’s adhesion and performance. Therefore, the suitability of a surface for DLC coating depends on its material, the specific DLC variant being used, and the application method and production process being used.

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Q: Is diamond-like carbon environmentally friendly?

A: DLC coatings are considered environmentally friendly due to their ability to reduce friction and, therefore, energy consumption. They can also decrease the need for lubricants, which can be harmful to the environment. Furthermore, the process to create and apply DLC coatings does not require the use of toxic chemicals, making them a green choice for various applications.

Recommend reading: Introducing Silicone Coating Machine From Tianniu.

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