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Catalysis

Substances that accelerate a reaction by offering a mechanism that is optimal to the reactions that are non-catalytic. This makes it easy to conduct the reactions in favourable temperature and pressure conditions. Almost eighty five to ninety percentage of processes conducted in the chemical industries are catalytic processes. Catalysts are vital in manufacturing chemicals in large scale, keeping a check on and thus controlling pollution by adequate waste management. It is also useful in production of fuels required for transportation. Catalysts are relied upon by the entire chemical industry.

Importance of Catalysis in Academic Curriculum

Catalysts create bonds with the molecules of the reactants followed by reacting to forming products by breaking the bonds with the same catalysts. In the end of the reaction, the catalyst stays in its original form. This can be done by achieving lower activation energy than what a normal reaction without catalysts requires.

Basic Concept:

Improvising catalytic action can be done by lowering the temperature and pressure in such a way that the reaction, however, functions and thus improve the efficiency along with reducing the amount of reactants which leads to unnecessary by-products. The catalyst provides an energetically optimized path that has a large catalytic reaction rate. In a reaction, there is no effect of catalyst on the constant equilibrium. It stimulates the reaction in both forward and backward direction at an equal rate as it alters the kinetics (Chorkendorff, et al., 2007).

Importance:

There are two types of catalysis - homogeneous catalysis and heterogeneous catalysis. In homogeneous catalysis, the substrates and the catalytic components are found in the same phase. In these kinds of catalysis reactions, the phase of the substrate and the catalysts is liquid. It involves complexes that are metallic i.e., a compound having a bond between a carbon atom and a metallic atom. Ester hydrolysis, Diels-Alder reactions, processes involving enzymes is certain examples of systems of catalytic reactions that involve a metallic atom. In homogeneous catalysis by the complexes of metals, the effects of the ligands play a very important role. Various products can be obtained from one metallic complex and substrate by altering the positions of the ligands around the centre of the metal. Monitoring can be done by the general methods such as chromatography using gas, registration of gas flow or pressure, chromatography using liquid, calorimetry, and spectroscopy by UV and IR rays, etc. In the system of homogeneous catalysts, identification of the presence of species have been found using "X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectroscopy". Also, a vast application is found in industrial chemistry as well as organometallic chemistry from ligands based on phosphines. (Piet, 2004).

A simple example of homogeneous catalysis reaction is ozone which is found in the atmosphere. The property of ozone to decompose spontaneously aids the chlorine atom to speed up the reaction when light is present. When producing complex pharmaceuticals that are delicate in nature, organometallic complexes are synthesised in homogenous catalysis. To get the desired products, ligands are used judiciously which guides the reacting molecules (Chorkendorff, et al., 2007).

Enzymes are large proteins which are found in the nature, and their shapes are naturally suited to guide molecules in reaction with the right configuration for the reactions. Natural enzymes are quite specific in nature and are very efficient catalysts. Building up of proteins and DNA, and breaking down of large molecules in nature such as sugar molecules in plants to release stored energy are some of the biological reactions that are guided and controlled by enzymes (Chorkendorff, et al., 2007).

Three dimensional networks that are crystalline in nature are known as zeolites. These zeolites tend to absorb molecules and eliminate the large chunks. The potential possessed by nano-porous materials provide exquisite characteristics which are a requisite for applications in the industry. Zeolites carry the essential capability to interchange positive ions during the catalytic reactions. Another feature of zeolites is their high surface area due to which catalysts of nano-porous nature contains more density which leads to a direct involvement at a molecular level in the reaction. This feature proved to be effective in efficient mechanism. Zeolites also found its application in processing of petroleum (Bein, 2007).

Surfaces of catalysts that are made of metals and their oxides are produced under unsteady conditions and its structure depends on various factors such as composition, rate of reaction, etc. which results in an active complex surface, which is difficult to comprehend. On the contrary, improvised mechanisms are provided by heterogeneous catalysts. The functioning of these three types of catalysts is based on their unique characteristics. It is found that enzymes are more efficient than any other chemical catalysts in the chemical industry as it is characterized by their high degree of selectivity. Having a narrow pH and range of temperature, enzymes are delicate and hence, its usage is barely present in the industry, ultimately resulting in unsuitability for an industry involving mass production (Bairoch, 2000).

 Few Important Tips to Solve Catalysis Problems 

Understand the requirement:

Before panicking at the complexity of the problem, analyse what the problem is referring to and understand what approach to use. Small details can hide big clues on how to solve the problem.

Structure and organise the information:

Organize and analyse the information given before you figure out how to solve the problem. Many times due to overlooking of vital information, one may miss the objective of the problem at hand. 

Verify and check the units of the variables:

Before solving the numerical, double check the units of the variables given in the problem statement. Make sure the output and the result adheres the units and standards given in the question. 

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