Is there a limit on how many different metals can be mixed into an alloy, and what would the results of alloying many different metals together be?


Is there a limit on how many different metals can be mixed into an alloy, and what would the results of alloying many different metals together be?

In: 52

Well there’s a hard limit on the periodic table – there’s only so many different metallic elements.

More practically, you’ll want some chemical/structural synergy between the elements you’re alloying to produce a final product that has superior properties than the components.

This means you’re looking specifically for another metal that is soluble in the major component and will modify or gap fill the crystal structure just right.

Not all metals are soluble or stable in eachother, and some will separate out like oil and water or corrode if you try to blend them.

But if you just wanted a messy and useless slag of all the stable metallic elements cooled into a crispy oxidized lump of jumbled phases and crystals, sure you could do that.

When I was in high school I took a jewelry making art class. We had a small furnace. My dad also worked for IBM and had these little gold coated, copper nubs (not sure what they were used for, contacts I think,)

I melted up a bunch of them to make a ring and found out the above… Pretty much a non discript alloy that was actually pretty brittle

Think of it like mixing paints.

You can mix up whatever you have on hand in whatever proportions you want – leading to infinite possiblities.

However, that doesn’t mean that all of those combinations will be useful or interesting. Mixing a ratio of 90.001%-Red to 9.999%-Blue is most likely going to be indistinguishable from the commonly-mixed combination of 90%-Red 10%-Blue. And similarly to how some paints do not mix well (think oil paints versus acrylics) some metals wont mix well and might instead clump up or separate like oil+water.

If you want to dig into alloys, aluminum can be a real education.

The 7000 series is as strong as mild steel, and is useful for structural work.

6000 series is the most common, and cuts, drills, welds easily.

I forget the number, but one alloy in particular is good to use as conductive wire, and most high voltage wire on power poles is bare stranded aluminum.

Silver is the most conductive / least resistive wire, but copper is almost as good and is MUCH cheaper

There is a field of research on this called High Entropy Alloys/Multi-Principal Element Alloys. I did my thesis on it.

Cantor did work on it about 15-20 years ago where he shoved 20ish elements into a system.

Long story short, theoretically you can mix as many elements as you want into a system, but it comes down to if a stable solid solution phase will form with no secondary phases, and if the alloy will actually have properties you are looking for.

There is this really basic heuristic called the “cocktail effect,” where the finalized alloy will have properties from every constituent element, but that isn’t 100% the case and ignores microscopic effects like precipitation hardening and the such.