What is Catalysis?

Catalysis is the process of modifying a chemical reaction with the use of a catalyst. This process only works with chemicals that have an existing reaction, and it is used to accelerate the reaction for commercial purposes. Catalysis occurs faster than a standard chemical reaction because catalysts require less activation energy, which is the minimum level of energy necessary to initiate a chemical reaction.


This blog post will outline the principle of catalysis and the different types.

Catalysis Working Principle

When a chemical is placed with a compatible catalyst, there is a reduction in the free energy required for the chemical to reach the transition state for that particular reaction. Catalysts can influence the reaction environment, depending on the specific reaction requirements.

For example, catalysts can produce more heat, form specific intermediates that are not created naturally, bind the reagents to polarize bonds or cause the dissociation of reactions back to their reactive forms.

Types of Catalysts

There are two main types of catalysts used for catalysis; heterogeneous or homogeneous. A heterogeneous catalyst has molecules that are not in the same phase as the reactants, whereas a homogeneous catalyst’s molecules are in the same phase as the reactants.

Typically, a heterogeneous catalyst is solid, whereas the reactants are gaseous or liquid. The reactants are adsorbed on active sites on the surface of a heterogeneous catalyst, and an interaction occurs. This interaction causes the molecules to become more reactive.

An electrocatalyst is a heterogeneous catalyst that is employed specifically in fuel cell engineering to improve the properties and working of the fuel cell.

Homogeneous catalysts are in the same phase as the reactant, typically gas or liquid. The principles of the heterogeneous catalyst are usually applied to this type of catalysts.

Organocatalysis is a form of catalysis that can be performed using a homogeneous catalyst. Organocatalysis is the study of organic catalysts, which are small organic molecules.

Catalysis at Hiden Analytical

Hiden Analytical has over 30 years of experience in the design, development, and manufacture of mass spectrometers for specialist process monitoring and advanced research applications.

We have a range of products suitable for catalysis analysis, including our CATLAB-PCS, which provides fully automated and accurate investigations of active surface chemistry, the ability to optimize catalytic activity, and rapid dynamic screening.

The DEMS, differential electrochemistry mass spectrometry technique is ideal for analysing the activity of electrocatalysts. The Hiden HPR-40 DEMS system is designed for differential electrochemistry mass spectrometry. The system includes DEMS Cells developed in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, USA.

If you would like any more information about the products available from Hiden Analytical to investigate and analyze catalysis, please send us a message.