Catalysis is the change in speed (rate) of a chemical reaction due to the help of a catalyst. Unlike other chemicals which take part in the reaction, a catalyst is not consumed by the reaction itself. A catalyst may participate in many chemical reactions. Catalysts that speed the reaction are called positive catalysts. Catalysts that slow the reaction are called negative catalysts, or inhibitors. Substances that increase the activity of catalysts are called promoters, and substances that deactivate catalysts are called catalytic poisons.
A catalyst is something which changes the rate of a chemical reaction. An example is when manganese oxide (MnO2) is added to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and the hydrogen peroxide starts to break up into water and oxygen. Catalysts are either of natural or synthetic origin. Catalysts are useful because they leave no residue in the solution they have speeded up. A catalyst can also be used in a reaction again and again as it is not used up. There are many catalysts in our body which play an important part in many biochemical reactions. These are called enzymes. Most catalysts work by lowering the 'activation energy' of a reaction. This allows less energy to be used, thus speeding up the reaction. The opposite of a catalyst is an inhibitor. Inhibitors slow down reactions. Some of them are found in snake venom and are dangerous for our nervous system or heart.
- Enzymes are biological catalysts
Images for kids
Generic potential energy diagram showing the effect of a catalyst in a hypothetical exothermic chemical reaction X + Y to give Z. The presence of the catalyst opens a different reaction pathway (shown in red) with a lower activation energy. The final result and the overall thermodynamics are the same.
Catalysis Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.