Catalysts - The Big Picture

Earlier we talked about catalysts speeding up processes. In the example of threading beads onto a necklace, we started with loose beads and a string and ended with a necklace. The needle was the catalyst in this process, and as a result the necklace was made much faster than if we had just used our hands to thread the beads.

Scientists use catalysts to speed up chemical reactions they want to carry out. Without catalysts, some reactions would not proceed at all, while others would go very slowly. Just as people don't like to wait in line for a long time to get to something, scientists don't like to wait a long time for a reaction to finish. Therefore, a scientist may use a palladium (Pd) catalyst to speed up a reaction that turns a compound A into a different compound B. Like all different compounds, A and B have different properties.

Things to Think About