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Text-books of Chemical Research and Engineering Catalysis and its Industrial Applications

Nature volume 96, pages 673674 (17 February 1916) | Download Citation



THIS little book consists of a series of articles originally contributed to The Chemical World, and deals with a class of phenomena which have attracted special attention of late years owing to their growing importance in many operations of chemical technology. The fact that certain chemical processes can be initiated or greatly accelerated by the presence of some foreign material which apparently remains unchanged was recognised in the early part of the last century and denoted by the term catalysis, first applied by Berzelius in 1835. One of the earliest facts which is brought to the knowledge of the chemical tyro is the influence of manganese dioxide in promoting the disengagement of oxygen from potassium chlorate, and if he ponders at all upon the circumstance one of his earliest impressions must be of the inadequacy or unsatisfactory nature of the explanation of the cause of the phenomenon. But as his knowledge increases he learns to recognise that the influence of extraneous substances in promoting chemical change is in reality a very common phenomenon. At the same time, comparatively little is known of the mechanism of these catalytic actions. In a few cases it has been definitely ascertained that the catalytic agent does experience a series of changes. During the course of a reaction it is being continually decomposed and recomposed, and by suitable means the presence of the intermediate product can be detected. Hence it is reasonable to suppose that all catalytic phenomena depend upon the alternate decomposition and recomposition of the catalytic agent. Another curious fact brought to light by the industrial application of catalysis is that the activity of a catalytic agent may be wholly inhibited by the presence of another foreign body or, in the language of the technologist, of a so-called poison.

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