What role does adsorption play in heterogeneous catalysis?
A catalytic process in which the catalyst and the reactants are present in different phases is known as a heterogeneous catalysis. This heterogeneous catalytic action can be explained in terms of the adsorption theory. The mechanism of catalysis involves the following steps:
(i) Adsorption of reactant molecules on the catalyst surface.
(ii) Occurrence of a chemical reaction through the formation of an intermediate.
(iii) De-sorption of products from the catalyst surface
(iv) Diffusion of products away from the catalyst surface.
In this process, the reactants are usually present in the gaseous state and the catalyst is present in the solid state. Gaseous molecules are then adsorbed on the surface of the catalyst. As the concentration of reactants on the surface of the catalyst increases, the rate of reaction also increases. In such reactions, the products have very less affinity for the catalyst and are quickly desorbed, thereby making the surface free for other reactants.