Catalysts are remarkable substances that can expedite chemical reactions without being consumed. This process occurs through various means, including accelerating the rates at which change happens or reducing the necessary temperature and/or pressure.

During chemical reactions, breaking, rearranging, and forming new bonds between atoms occur, accompanied by the exchange of energy. This progression entails developing a transition state with higher energy than the reactants. The activation energy (Ea) is the minimum energy required to achieve this transition state. In order to reach this transition, heat can be supplied, increasing the kinetic energy of the molecules, which promotes bond rearrangement. Catalyst can contribute to circumventing the need for high Ea by providing alternative pathways, lowering this value.

How do catalysts provide a secondary pathway?

The interaction between the catalyst and the reactant molecules results in the formation of an intermediary known as an activated complex, also known as a transition state. While chemical bonds form within this complex, they require less energy to break, thus enhancing the likelihood of the reaction occurring. Once the catalyzed reactions have occurred, the products detach from the catalyst, regenerating it for further use in accelerating subsequent reactions.