Science 3 min read

Researchers use Experimental Method to Find High-Entropy Alloys

Materials scientists use data analytics to discover a new class of super-hard alloys. This experimental method could accelerate research into the emerging field of High-Entropy Alloys.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Conventional alloys are made by mixing two or more metallic and/or non-metallic elements in order to obtain a compound with specific enhanced properties compared to the starting materials.

But in recent years, High-Entropy Alloys (HEAs) emerged as a novel class of materials. There are no primary and secondary elements in high-entropy alloys as usually four, five or more elements are added to the mix in nearly equal proportions.

The resulting compounds exhibit mechanical and thermal properties that are far superior to those of conventional alloys.

While research into high-entropy alloys goes back to the early 1980s, it’s only during the last decade that this field has picked up speed thanks to the development of new scientific investigation techniques.

Experimental Method to Discover Super-Hard High-Entropy Alloys

Scientists from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, have discovered a new class of extremely-hard alloys using an experimental method they described in a paper published in Nature Communications.

Aside from the experimental electron microscopy tool the researchers used in their investigation, the physical mechanisms behind the observed properties in HEAs, data analytics was also key to their findings.

“We used materials informatics — the application of the methods of data science to materials problems — to predict a class of materials that have superior mechanical properties,” said lead author Jeffrey M. Rickman.

By developing and testing this technique, Lehigh researchers hoped they would identify promising HEAs.

“However, we found alloys that had hardness values that exceeded our initial expectations. Their hardness values are about a factor of 2 better than other, more typical high-entropy alloys and other relatively hard binary alloys.”

Materials informatics has become a powerful tool used by scientists today to design alloys with the desirable thermal and mechanical properties that conventional alloys can’t provide.

Ferroelectrics, batteries, thermoelectrics, and hydrogen storage are just examples of the industries and technologies that could benefit from the application of materials informatics to engineer novel HEAs.

“Creation of large data sets in materials science, in particular, is transforming the way research is done in the field by providing opportunities to identify complex relationships and to extract information that will enable new discoveries and catalyze materials design,” Rickman said.

But Lehigh scientists have already thought about a specific area of application of their newly-found super-hard alloys. HEAs with such hardness can potentially withstand severe projectile impacts, so they would be interesting to study for soldiers protection systems.

Read More: Scientists Develop Low-Cost Energy-Efficient Alloys

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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