CARBON films find applications in a wide range of fields, ranging from microelectronics to materials science1. In ceramic matrix composites they confer the high strength and toughness needed for applications in aerospace, nuclear and automotive engineering2. Chemical vapour deposition is traditionally used to prepare carbon films, but it is relatively expensive, and not easily adapted to coating samples in the form of whiskers, platelets or powders. Here we report that silicon carbide, the most common component of composite ceramics, can be coated with carbon films of nanometre to micrometre thickness by hydrothermal treatment at 300-800 °C. We have applied the technique to SiC fibres, powders, platelets and single crystals, as well as to other carbides. Our method should provide a general and inexpensive route to high-toughness composites and lubricating coatings.
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