The catalytic properties of non-noble elements and their alloys are usually rather poor. Industry has traditionally deployed platinum alloys as catalysts for oxygen reduction, which is essential in fuel cells and metal-air batteries, for example. However, the expensive and rare metal imposes strict restrictions on production. Researchers at the Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) and Max Planck Institute for Iron Research have now discovered an alloy made up of five elements that is noble-metal free, yet as active as platinum. This is because of what is known as the ‘high entropy effect’, which causes multinary alloys to maintain a simple crystal structure.
However, since even the researchers do not fully understand the complex interplay of the elements, they have not yet been able to develop any specific catalysts. According to the scientists, the research project nevertheless lays the foundation for further studies of high-entropy alloys made up of multiple elements as a new, high-potential catalyst category.