Science and technology are fields which often depend upon each other and are ever changing. In particular catalytic technologies are moving forward and expanding at quite a rate.
What is catalysis?
Catalysis is a chemical process where a chemical reaction is increased in rate thanks to adding a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance which aids the process. The catalyst is not consumed during the chemical reaction and can act again and again.
A catalyst will speed up reaction times due to needing less activation energy and will generally regenerate following the reaction in order to maintain the cycle of catalysis.
There are two kinds of catalyst: heterogeneous and homogeneous. Heterogeneous catalysts are generally liquid or gas forms and their molecules which aren’t in the same phase as the reactant molecules. Conversely, homogeneous catalysts’ molecules are in the same phase as the reactants and are also liquids or gases.
In addition there are enzymes and biocatalysts which are viewed as a third and separate group of catalysts.
Use of catalysts
Within technology catalysts have been used in the petrochemical industry for refining of fuel and for making various kinds of polymer. The process helps develop better techniques and better products.
This is probably the best known use of catalytic technology. It’s not that many years since fuel emissions from vehicles wasn’t consider a problem or environmental threat. Once this threat was realised it was understood that the production of toxic gases by motor vehicles needed to be addressed. Catalytic converters reduce poisonous emissions by employing a platinum and rhodium catalyst with a high surface area in order to speed up the reaction between carbon monoxide, oxygen and the vehicle’s unburnt fuel. This results in a much more environmentally friendly end product of carbon dioxide and water.
The petrochemical industry in general faced harsh criticism some years ago from environmental groups and has addressed these issues thanks to catalytic technology. Catalysts have helped produce a safer, greener product and aids in the process of making them. Refining has been made much easier thanks to co-operation between petrol companies and catalytic technology companies. ExxonMobil and Symyx Technologies is an example of such co-operation and their commit to development has resulted in greater productivity as well as the aforementioned advantages.
Polymers are part of our everyday life thanks to the packaging in which most things we buy are packed. Polythene and polystyrene are ubiquitous and are widely and effectively produced thanks to catalytic technology. Without the development of the technology tings would be very different indeed.
The future of catalytic technologies
The future is notoriously hard to predict, but you can rest assured that catalytic technologies will play a part. As research is done within the field, so are new developments made and there are great minds at work ensuring that processes based upon their findings can be implemented. Catalytic technology could be more and more prevalent as we look to continue to produce more environmentally friendly products and make the world a greener place.