Sci Adv. 2022 Nov 4;8(44):eadd6421. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.add6421. Epub 2022 Nov 4.
Platinum-based catalysts are widely used in hydrogen evolution reactions; however, their applications are restricted because of the cost-efficiency trade-off. Here, we present a thermodynamics-based design strategy for synthesizing an Al73Mn7Ru20 (atomic %) metal catalyst via combinatorial magnetron co-sputtering. The new electrocatalyst is composed of ~2 nanometers of medium-entropy nanocrystals surrounded by ~2 nanometers of amorphous regions. The catalyst exhibits exceptional performance, similar to that of single-atom catalysts and better than that of nanocluster-based catalysts. We use aluminum rather than a noble metal as the principal element of the catalyst and ruthenium, which is cheaper than platinum, as the noble metal component. The design strategy provides an efficient route for the development of electrocatalysts for use in large-scale hydrogen production. Moreover, the superior hydrogen reaction evolution created by the synergistic effect of the nano-dual-phase structure is expected to guide the development of high-performance catalysts in other alloy systems.