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Chemical and Process Engineering Resources

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Category: Reactions and Processes
Question: What are some common chemical catalyst and how are they used in an industrial process? What kind of a difference do catalyst make in the overall economics of the industrial process, and what occupational hazards are associated with using the catalyst?
Keywords: common,industrial,chemical,catalysts
Answer: Interested in catalysts? Let's start here...catalysts impact the overall economics in ways that you probably can't imagine. The usual order of progression is that a chemist finds a way to make a fantastic new chemical in the lab, but it takes hours or days for the reaction to be complete. Unless the reaction can be sped up significantly, no one will ever mass produce the chemical because the cost would be much too high (exceptions to this do exist in specialty chemical that people do not need much of). This is where catalysts come in. Catalysts do one thing..speed up reactions (they do not take place in the reaction itself). Much of the research time for a given chemical is spent on catalysts research. The most tightly guarded industrial secrets are catalysts compositions or recipes. Often times, many companies will be producing the same chemical, but because one company has a better catalyst, they can sell their product at a lower costs and gain more of the market! In short, catalysts often times ARE the economic feasibility of a chemical process. Occupational hazards of catalysts are seldom a large concern for two reasons: 1. The catalysts spend nearly all of their time in chemical reactors (not exposed to workers) and 2. Most catalysts are metal or composite based and pose no real threat unless prolonged exposure takes place. Realize that there are exceptions to this rule, but none come to mind right now. Chemical Processing magazine did a wonderful article of catalysts in their November 1998 edition on page 55. Table one will be of particular interest to you where they list some of the most common industrial catalysts and their uses.
Links: Chemical Processing Magazine