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25 10 2018 04

Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Germany have discovered an 5-element alloy that is noble metal-free and as active as platinum. They published their paper in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), as a key reaction in electrocatalysis, attracts considerable attention due to its complex four-electron/four-proton transfer, which causes sluggish kinetics. Pt-based materials are the state-of-the-art electrocatalysts for ORR due to their outstanding catalytic activity, selectivity, and long-term stability under operating conditions. However, their scarcity and, thus, high cost limit their applications. Accordingly, research on non-noble metal catalysts increased substantially over the past decades. … new materials capable of replacing Pt-based catalysts for ORR are yet to be found.

One approach in exploring novel materials is to increase their chemical complexity. Multinary metal alloys require a more challenging synthesis pathway, but enable a virtually unlimited amount of different compositions.

… we investigated nanoparticles of a noble metal–free Cr–Mn–Fe–Co–Ni multinary element alloy that shows the high-entropy effect promoting single solid solution formation. We report for the first time that such materials can compete with Pt in their ORR activity. Based on a new method for nanoparticle-based investigation of intrinsic electrocatalytic activity, we show that this outstanding activity is indeed an inherent material property.
—Löffler et al.

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