Compositionally graded and non-graded composite SiCu thin films were deposited by magnetron sputtering technique on Cu disks for investigation of their potentials in lithiumion battery applications. The compositionally graded thin film electrodes with 30 at.% Cu delivered a 1400 mAh g(-1) capacity with 80% Coulombic efficiency in the first cycle and still retained its capacity at around 600 mAh g(-1) (with 99.9% Coulombic efficiency) even after 100 cycles. On the other hand, the non-graded thin film electrodes with 30 at.% Cu exhibited 1100 mAh g(-1) as the first discharge capacity with 78% Coulombic efficiency but the cycle life of this film degraded very quickly, delivering only 250 mAh g(-1) capacity after 100th cycles. Not only the Cu content but also the graded film thickness were believed to be the main contributors to the much superior performance of the compositionally graded SiCu films. We also believe that the Cu-rich region of the graded film helped reduce internal stress build-up and thus prevented film delamination during cycling. In particular, the decrease of Cu content from interface region to the top of the coating reduced the possibility of stress build-up across the film during cycling, thus leading to a high electrochemical performance.b (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.