Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2021, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (7): 2009077.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB202009077

Special Issue: Electrocatalysis

• REVIEW • Previous Articles     Next Articles

High-Entropy Alloy Nanocatalysts for Electrocatalysis

Kangning Zhao, Xiao Li, Dong Su()   

  • Received:2020-09-25 Accepted:2020-10-31 Published:2020-11-10
  • Contact: Dong Su
  • About author:Dong Su, Email:; Tel: +86-10-82649555
  • Supported by:
    the Strategic Priority Research Program (B)(XDB07030200)


The implementation of clean energy techniques, including clean hydrogen generation, use of solar-driven photovoltaic hybrid systems, photochemical heat generation as well as thermoelectric conversion, is crucial for the sustainable development of our society. Among these promising techniques, electrocatalysis has received significant attention for its ability to facilitate clean energy conversion because it promotes a higher rate of reaction and efficiency for the associated chemical transformations. Noble-metal-based electrocatalysts typically show high activity for electrochemical conversion processes. However, their scarcity and high cost limit their applications in electrocatalytic devices. To overcome this limitation, binary catalysts prepared by alloying with transition metals can be used. However, optimization of the activity of the binary catalysts is considerably limited because of the presence of the miscibility gap in the phase diagram of binary alloys. The activity of binary electrocatalysts can be attributed to the adsorption energy of molecules and intermediates on the surface. High-entropy alloys (HEAs), which consist of diverse elements in a single NP, typically exhibit better physical and/or chemical properties than their single-element counterparts, because of their tunable composition and inherent surface complexity. Further, HEAs can improve the performance of binary electrocatalysts because they exhibit a near-continuous distribution of adsorption energy. Recently, HEAs have gained considerable attention for their application in electrocatalytic reactions. This review summarizes recent research advances in HEA nanostructures and their application in the field of electrocatalysis. First, we introduce the concept, structure, and four core effects of HEAs. We believe that this part will provide the basic information about HEAs. Next, we discuss the reported top-down and bottom-up synthesis strategies, emphasizing on the carbothermal shock method, nanodroplet-mediated electrodeposition, fast moving bed pyrolysis, polyol process, and dealloying. Other methods such as combinatorial co-sputtering, ultrashort-pulsed laser ablation, ultrasonication-assisted wet chemistry, and scanning-probe block copolymer lithography are also highlighted. Among these methods, wet chemistry has been reported to be effective for the formation of nano-scale HEAs because it facilitates the concurrent reduction of all metal precursors to form solid-solution alloys. Next, we present the theoretical investigation of HEA nanocatalysts, including their thermodynamics, kinetic stability, and adsorption energy tuning for optimizing their catalytic activity and selectivity. To elucidate the structure–property relationship in HEAs, we summarize the research progress related to electrocatalytic reactions promoted by HEA nanocatalysts, including the oxygen reduction reaction, oxygen evolution reaction, hydrogen evolution reaction, methanol oxidation reaction, and CO2 reduction reaction. Finally, we discuss the challenges and various strategies toward the development of HEAs.

Key words: High-entropy alloy nanostructures, Electrocatalysis, Single-phase solid solution, Adsorption energy, Active site