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What are Catalysts?

10/31/2013 4:09:29 PM | by Anonymous


Catalysts are substances that aim to amplify or speed up a certain reaction. The catalyst can come in different forms such as synthetic, metal and organic. The process where the catalyst either slows down or accelerates a chemical reaction is known as catalysis.

In order for a catalyst process to happen, something called activation energy is needed to kick start the process. If the catalyst were not present, then a large amount of energy is needed to start the reaction. The presence of a catalyst lowers the activation energy during a reaction allowing it to occur more efficiently. The catalyst works by changing the molecule structure or by attaching itself to the reactant molecules which causes them to bond. This creates a release of a different product or more energy. One good example is when hydrogen and oxygen gases combine with a catalyst to produce water.

If there are no catalysts present, then the chemical reactions will take a much longer time to react and in some cases they might not react at all. During a chemical reaction, the catalysts often do not change in form nor do they appear at the end result. This means that most of the times the catalyst can be re used over and over again in the next reaction.

Most of the times catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction, however there are also times where catalysts are used to slow down reactions instead. This type of catalyst is referred to as a negative catalyst or an inhibitor. Inhibitors or negative catalysts are mostly used in the medicine industry to treat illnesses such as high blood pressure, mental problems, cancer and many other health issues.

Catalysts can either be used in biochemical conditions or biochemical conditions. The most common type of reactions in biochemical conditions are the use of enzymes. Enzymes are special proteins that help speed up a particular chemical reaction. One of the most common examples of enzymes is found in our saliva which breaks down foods to make it easier for the stomach to digest. Without enzymes, the food would take an extremely long time to break down and digest.

Enzyme catalysis is the process of the enzymes reacting with the reactant molecule which is also known as a substrate. The enzyme in the chemical reaction significantly lowers the activation energy required for the reaction to occur and provides even more energy for the reactant molecules to form new products at the end result. The enzyme attaches itself to the substrate and configures the molecule to form a new molecule. The substrate changes in form while the enzyme retains its current molecular structure. This enables enzymes to be reused over again for future reactions.

There are also different types of artificial catalysts that are used to achieve similar results. The downside is that these artificial catalysts are unable to match the rate of acceleration of a natural enzyme and they are not as potent as well. Enzymes are sometimes used to stabilize the condition of the reaction on top of being catalysts. In the human body, the temperature whereby catalysis occurs is approximately 37 degrees Celsius.

Enzymes consist of multiple amino acid chains with a 3 dimensional form. These enzymes are easily altered through the lack of hydrogen or extreme temperatures. Free radicals, heavy metals and other chemicals may easily interfere with the catalysis as well. This is why it is important to have catalysis carried out in controlled environments.

Catalysts are not only important in the lab but also in other industries such as manufacturing. One of the most commonly used catalyst application is the catalytic converter. This reduces the amount of harmful carbon emissions from a vehicle. Another example is fermentation where enzymes are use to produce alcoholic beverages. There are many uses of catalysts today from saving the environment to creating tasty beverages.


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