There are two important classes of catalysts: homogenous catalysts like enzymes and aqueous ions that are uniformly mixed with the reactants, and heterogeneous catalysts that provide a surface that holds and reconfigures the reactants in a way that is favorable for reaction.
Examples of homogeneous catalysis. Catalysts in solution with the reactants usually provide fast reaction paths by allowing reactants to form an unstable intermediate that quickly decomposes into products. For example, the substitution reaction
|CH3CH2OH(g) + HCl(g)||H2SO4
||CH3CH2Cl + H2O()|
The iodide-catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide is another classic example of homogenous catalysis.
Enzymes are biological catalysts that combine with reactants (called substrates) to form an unstable intermediate. Enzymes are protein molecules folded into a complex shape that contains sites for capturing and tranforming substrates (active sites). Some enzymes contain embedded metal ions or other molecules that participate in the active site. An example is carbonic anhydrase, which contains a zinc ion. It catalyzes the reaction
H2CO3(aq) H2O() + CO2(aq)The equilibrium lies far to the right, and rapid equilibration is essential to allow CO2 to diffuse out of the bloodstream and into the lungs. Enzymes and other catalysts never change the position of equilibrium; they only allow equilibrium to be established more rapidly.
Unlike most inorganic catalysts, enzymes are reaction specific. They act only on particular substrates, which fit into their convoluted surfaces like a key fits a keyhole. (Some enzymes flex around the incoming substrate, and don't have a rigid "keyhole"). Also unlike most inorganic catalysts, enzymes are delicate, intricate molecular machines which can be damaged or destroyed by substances involved in the reaction they catalyze.
Examples of catalysis on surfaces. Metals can sometimes capture reactants on their surfaces and reconfigure them in a way that is favorable to reaction. Consider the reaction of alkenes with hydrogen to form alkanes. The reaction does not proceed at a measurable rate at room temperature, even though calculations predict that the equilibrium should lie far to the right. For example, ethylene can be hydrogenated using platinum as a catalyst.
|H2C=CH2(g) + H2(g)||Pt
The ring-opening of cyclopropane can be catalyzed in a very similar way:
Platinum or vanadium(V) oxide catalyze the production of SO3 from SO2, a key step in the manufacture of sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is required for so many applications that annual production of the acid was used as an index of industrial productivity.
|SO2(g) + 1/2 O2(g)||V2O5
Heterogeneous catalysis is used in automobile exhaust systems to decrease nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and unburned hydrocarbon emissions. The exhaust is vented through a high-surface area chamber lined with platinum, palladium, and rhodium. For example, the carbon monoxide is catalytically converted to carbon dioxide by reaction with oxygen.
Author: Fred Senese firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1997-2010 by Fred Senese
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Last Revised 08/17/15.URL: http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/reactions/faq/print-examples-of-catalysts.shtml