Sputter deposition of highly active complex solid solution electrocatalysts into an ionic liquid library: effect of structure and composition on oxygen reduction activity†
Complex solid solution electrocatalysts (often called high-entropy alloys) present a new catalyst class with highly promising features due to the interplay of multi-element active sites. One hurdle is the limited knowledge about structure–activity correlations needed for targeted catalyst design. We prepared Cr–Mn–Fe–Co–Ni nanoparticles by magnetron sputtering a high entropy Cantor alloy target simultaneously into an ionic liquid library. The synthesized nanoparticles have a narrow size distribution but different sizes (from 1.3 ± 0.1 nm up to 2.6 ± 0.3 nm), different crystallinity (amorphous, face-centered cubic or body-centered cubic) and composition (i.e. high Mn versus low Mn content). The Cr–Mn–Fe–Co–Ni complex solid solution nanoparticles possess an unprecedented intrinsic electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction in alkaline media, some of them even surpassing that of Pt. The highest intrinsic activity was obtained for body-centered cubic nanoparticles with a low Mn and Fe content which were synthesized using the ionic liquid 1-etyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide [Emimi][(Tf)2N].