Multi-element nanoparticles can now be made with a more diverse array of metals, thanks to a new technique developed by researchers in China. These materials could find use in a wide range of applications due to their interesting and tuneable electronic, chemical and physical properties.


Source: © Guanghui Cao et al/Springer Nature Limited 2023

The liquid gallium matrix mediated production process has been used to produce extremely complex alloys with 17 different metals

Over the last two decades, there has been growing interest in creating high-entropy alloys – materials made of multiple metallic elements. By mixing elements with different characteristics, researchers hope to discover materials with interesting new properties – for example, they might be better catalysts under environmentally-friendly conditions.

Until now, high-entropy alloy nanoparticles required their components to have compatible properties, such as similar atomic radii or melting points. But now, a team led by researchers at Wuhan University and the Southern University of Shenzhen has found a way to produce nanoparticles that contain elements that were previously difficult to mix together.

The approach involves using liquid gallium as a matrix to combine many other metals that were otherwise immiscible. In one example, the team produced nanoparticles containing an even distribution of 17 different elements – gallium, iron, nickel, copper, zinc, scandium, vanadium, manganese, magnesium, zirconium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, hafnium, molybdenum and niobium. The elements included in the nanoparticles have melting points ranging from 303–3683K.