Catalysts are used in many types of reactions and chemical engineering processes. In many cases, nothing is more important than the catalyst used. The catalyst often forms the foundation or basis of the reaction, and in many cases, the reaction wouldn't happen at all without the catalyst. Many items that we use each and every day are formed with the aid of a catalyst. In some cases, multiple chemical processes must be used to create a specific product or item, and a catalyst may be required for one or more of these processes.
A catalyst is like a natural activation switch that makes it possible for a reaction to happen or happen more swiftly than would otherwise be possible if the catalytic substance was absent. In short, these substances speed up the rate at which a reaction takes place, which allows many other substances and items to be created rapidly. In addition to this, catalytic substances allow reactions to occur that couldn't otherwise have happened, as mentioned above. In these cases, the catalyst is providing the activation energy that is needed to spark the reaction. Other catalytic substances lower the activation energy needed to make a reaction occur. This is especially true of reactions in which large molecules need to combine to form even larger molecules. Processes such as this often occur in the human body.
Almost anywhere you look today, you can see the evidence of a catalyst at work. As mentioned above, one of the best places to look if you want to find a catalyst allowing a chemical process to take place is within the human body itself. Enzymes are catalytic substances. Cells within the body use catalytic substances to create energy and to grow. The human body could not function at all without these substances.
Chances are you have encountered a specific catalyst in your life. Catalytic converters in cars are used to clean emissions and pollution from car exhaust. In these cases, the catalysts being used are precious metals such as platinum and rhodium. These metals spark a reaction in the emissions and eliminate certain harmful substances from the exhaust itself. These catalytic substances are responsible for reducing emissions and have had a major impact on curbing air pollution from vehicles.
At least one catalyst is used when refining crude oil into gasoline and other oil based products. This makes a wide variety of different substances available for consumer use that wouldn't otherwise be brought to market, and the use of a catalyst in the development of these products reduces the costs associated with creating them, thus bringing down end user costs as well. As a result, each catalyst used helps to improve the quality of life for those who use the finished products.