What is A Catalyst?
A catalyst is a chemical that changes the rate of a chemical reaction, but does not become part of the product.
- Catalyst generally increases the rate of a chemical reaction.
- Catalysts are not all the same, one type of catalysts cause chemicals to break apart forming two or more smaller molecules. Other types of catalysts cause two or more chemicals to combine forming one large molecule.
- Catalysts in living organisms are called enzymes.
You can model a catalyst that connects two chemicals using one 2-by-8-inch (5-by-20-cm) strip of paper and two large metal paper clips.
- paper strip represents the enzyme
- paper clips represent two chemicals
1. Fold the paper strip in three parts as shown to form three layers.
2. Look at the diagram carefully.
- Note that the spotted paper clip on the left is clipped on the first two layers of the folded paper.
- The black paper clip on the right is clipped on the second and third layers of the folded paper.
Caution: Wear eye protection. The paper clips tend to fly out if the paper is pulled quickly.
Holding the two free ends of the folded paper, pull the ends in opposite directions until the paper is stretched out.
Summation: The movement of the paper results in the paper clips being joined.
The folded paper represents a catalyst which increases the possibility that two chemicals (colored paper clips) will combine. The combined paper clips represent a new chemical product. The catalyst is actively involved in the chemical combination (connection of the paper clips) but the catalyst (paper) is not a reactant or part of the product. The catalyst can be used over and over again.
Enzymes are catalyst in living organisms. For more information, see ENZYMES.
For more information about enzymes, see Janice VanCleave’s Food and Nutrition for Every Kid.
VanCleave, Janice. “Catalyst Model.”
Enzymes. 01 August 2010.