Metallic alloys are normally composed of multiple constituent elements in order to achieve integration of a plurality of properties required in technological applications. However, conventional alloy development paradigm, by sequential trial-and-error approach, requires completely unrelated strategies to optimize compositions out of a vast phase space, making alloy development time consuming and labor intensive. Here, we challenge the conventional paradigm by proposing a combinatorial strategy that enables parallel screening of a multitude of alloys. Utilizing a typical metallic glass forming alloy system Zr-Cu-Al-Ag as an example, we demonstrate how glass formation and antibacterial activity, two unrelated properties, can be simultaneously characterized and the optimal composition can be efficiently identified. We found that in the Zr-Cu-Al-Ag alloy system fully glassy phase can be obtained in a wide compositional range by co-sputtering, and antibacterial activity is strongly dependent on alloy compositions. Our results indicate that antibacterial activity is sensitive to Cu and Ag while essentially remains unchanged within a wide range of Zr and Al. The proposed strategy not only facilitates development of high-performing alloys, but also provides a tool to unveil the composition dependence of properties in a highly parallel fashion, which helps the development of new materials by design.
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