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Research team led by Kyoto Univ. makes world's 1st alloy mixing all 8 precious metals

Eight precious metals used for making the world's first alloy are seen in this image provided by Sogensha Inc.

KYOTO -- A research team led by Kyoto University succeeded in developing an alloy by mixing all eight precious metals for the first time in the world, and hopes that it "may lead to solving energy problems."

    The research results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The eight-element alloy reportedly performs 10 times better than platinum as a catalyst for producing hydrogen from water electrolysis. The team says they "produced a dream alloy that no one has been able to create for about 5,000 years, since the Bronze Age."

    The eight precious metals are gold, silver platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium. All precious metals are rare and corrosion resistant. There are combinations that do not mix well like water and oil, and it had been believed to be difficult to combine all of them.

    The research team led by Hiroshi Kitagawa, professor of inorganic chemistry at Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, succeeded in making a nanometer-scale (one billionth of a meter) alloy by using the non-equilibrium chemical reduction method. The researchers poured a solution containing metal ions of the eight precious metals evenly into a reducing agent at 200 degrees Celsius, instantly reducing the solution. The team apparently also found a method for mass production in an environment with a high temperature and high pressure.

    The team had developed an alloy mixing five platinum group metals (PGMs) excluding gold, silver and osmium in 2020. PGMs are often used as catalysts, and the five-element alloy performed twice as well as a platinum electrode used as a catalyst for generating hydrogen. Gold, silver and osmium do not function on their own as catalysts for hydrogen generation, but the eight-element alloy, which includes the three elements, performed 10 times better than platinum.

    The team says they will promote the mass production of the alloy in cooperation with companies.

    Hydrogen is attracting attention as next-generation fuel that does not emit carbon dioxide. Kitagawa explained, "It is surprising how the performance (of the alloy) as a catalyst improved by mixing gold and silver. This time we mixed the eight elements evenly, but we can expect higher performance by changing the ratio."

    (Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Kyoto Bureau)

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