Stepping into the future, material science is reshaping our understanding of strength, flexibility, and resilience in substances. Envision a metal that not only boasts unparalleled durability but also endures the harshest conditions without compromising its structural integrity. Far from the realms of science fiction, this vision introduces us to the innovative world of high-entropy alloys, which are set to redefine standards across various industries, from aerospace to automotive. Among these groundbreaking materials, a particular variant emerges, distinguished by its exceptional qualities. This isn’t just an addition to the array of materials known to science, it represents the forefront of research, where materials adapt as much as they endure.

Delving into the science of materials, the study of high-entropy alloys presents a frontier teeming with opportunities for crafting substances with unparalleled properties. The AlCoCrFeNi2.1 eutectic high-entropy alloy (EHEA), a standout in the diverse family of HEAs, is renowned for its superior strength, ductility, and its formidable resistance to corrosion and thermal challenges. Leading this investigative journey, Dr. Peijian Shi from the City University of Hong Kong, alongside Chunmei Liu and Professor Yunbo Zhong from Shanghai University, has illuminated paths to optimizing these alloys. Their research, documented in the Journal Materials Research and Technology, explores the intricate balance of microstructures and properties achieved through directional solidification paired with the strategic application of a strong magnetic field, heralding a new era of material advancements.

The team’s comprehensive study thoroughly investigates the effects of growth velocities on the microstructural formation and mechanical properties of AlCoCrFeNi2.1 EHEA. Through directional solidification, a process that allows precise control over the material’s cooling rate and thus its microstructural features, the researchers unveil that varying the growth velocity significantly impacts the alloy’s lamellar spacing and mechanical characteristics. At lower growth velocities, the material exhibits a lamellar structure composed of alternating face-centered-cubic and B2 phase lamellae. Interestingly, the yield strength of the alloy increases with the growth rate, whereas its ultimate tensile strength sees a decline, with ductility remaining relatively consistent.

Dr. Peijian Shi emphasizes, “Heterostructured materials consist of heterogeneous regions with significantly different mechanical or physical properties. The interactive coupling between these zones generates a synergistic effect, surpassing the predictions of the rule-of-mixtures. Consequently, heterostructured materials exhibit superior mechanical or physical properties compared to conventional homogeneous materials. By precisely controlling the temperature gradient and solidification rate during the solidification process, an optimal heterostructure can be achieved in the EHEA, leading to enhanced overall mechanical properties of the material.” This statement underscores the remarkable potential of heterogeneous structures in enhancing material properties and highlights the importance of meticulous control during the solidification process to customize the material’s characteristics.

A pivotal discovery of the study is the double yield phenomenon observed in the alloy under certain conditions, which underscores the complex interplay between different phases during deformation. This phenomenon provides valuable insights into the material’s deformation mechanisms, highlighting the nuanced balance between strength and ductility achievable in high-entropy alloys.

Chunmei Liu noted, “The boundary of the eutectic phase hinders the movement of dislocation, promotes the generation of the back stress, and improves the ductility deformation and work-hardening ability of the material.” This insight highlights how microstructural features contribute to the material’s mechanical properties.

Further enriching the study’s findings, the application of a strong magnetic field during the directional solidification process reveals the potential for microstructure manipulation. Professor Yunbo Zhong remarked, “The interaction of the thermoelectric-magnetic force and thermoelectric-magnetic convection and the potential mechanism of microstructure evolution under the effect of magnetic field were deeply analyzed.” This observation points to the intricate effects of magnetic fields on material science.

The implications of this research are far-reaching, offering a new understanding of the relationship between processing conditions, microstructure, and properties in hierarchically heterostructural high-entropy alloys. The ability to control and manipulate these factors opens up exciting possibilities for developing materials with customized properties for specific applications, particularly in industries where materials are subjected to extreme conditions. In conclusion, the work of Dr. Shi, Liu, Professor Zhong, and their colleagues represents a significant stride in the study of high-entropy alloys. By unraveling the intricate relationship between microstructural control and material properties, they lay the groundwork for future advancements in material science, promising new generations of materials with unparalleled performance.


Xin Jiang, Yi Li, Peijian Shi, et al., “Synergistic control of microstructures and properties in eutectic high-entropy alloys via directional solidification and strong magnetic field,” Journal of Materials Research and Technology, 2024.



Peijian Shi

Shi Peijian, a dynamic young scientist, earned his bachelor’s degree from Jinan University in 2016 and completed his doctorate in engineering at Shanghai University in 2021. In October of the same year, he commenced his postdoctoral research journey at the City University of Hong Kong, collaborating with Prof. C.T. Liu and Prof. Yuntian Zhu as co-supervisors. His remarkable achievements include winning the First Prize of China Nonferrous Metals Industry Science and Technology, the First Prize of Shanghai Science and Technology, the Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher of Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study (HKIAS), and the Best Researcher at the 16th International Science, Health, and Engineering Research Awards. Dedicated to advancing materials science, Shi Peijian has played a pivotal role in the development of key application prototype materials, microstructure design, mechanical characterizations, deformation and failure mechanism investigations at multiple length scales. His recent focus on high-entropy alloys, copper alloys and their applications, ultrafine-grained hetero-lamellar structures, edge/screw dislocations, diverse mechanical twins, confined martensitic transition, and hierarchical crack buffering demonstrates the depth of his contributions. As an experimentalist, Peijian Shi combines a keen interest in fundamental aspects of materials science with a passion for designing materials with superior strength and ductility. His research findings have been published in prestigious journals such as Science, Nature Communications, and Materials Today, where he often assumes the role of the first author ( A testament to his prominence in the field, Shi Peijian delivered a captivating highlight lecture titled “Hierarchical Crack Buffering Triples Ductility in Eutectic Herringbone High-Entropy Alloys” at the Materials Science and Technology in Europe, FEMS EUROMAT, held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 2023. He has also presented significant academic insights at the TMS Annual Meeting & Exhibition and the Gordon Research Conference on Heterogeneous Materials. In addition to his research prowess, Shi Peijian is deeply committed to the dissemination of scientific research and innovation, making valuable contributions to the global materials science community.