Catalyst poisoning

Catalyst Poisoning

Catalyst poisoning

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Catalyst poisoning refers to the effect that a catalyst can be 'poisoned' if it reacts with another compound that bonds chemically (similar to an inhibitor) but does not release, or chemically alters the catalyst. This effectively reduces the usefulness of the catalyst, (i. e. the number of active sites) as it cannot participate in the reaction with which it was supposed to catalyze.


An example can be seen with Raney nickel catalyst, which have reduced activity when it is in combination with mild steel. The loss in activity of catalyst can be overcome by having a lining of epoxy or other substances.

Poisoning of palladium and platinum catalysts has been extensively researched. As a rule of thumb, platinum (as Adam's catalyst, finely divided on carbon) is less susceptible. Common poisons for these two metals are sulfur and nitrogen-heterocycles like pyridine and quinoline.

A catalytic converter for an automobile can be poisoned if the vehicle is operated on gasoline containing lead additives.

Catalyst poisoning to enhance selectivity

Usually, catalyst poisoning is undesirable as it leads to a loss of usefulness of expensive noble metals or their complexes. However, poisoning of catalysts can be used to improve selectivities of reactions.

In the classical "Rosenmund reduction" of acyl chlorides to aldehydes, the palladium catalyst (over barium sulfate or calcium carbonate) is poisoned by the addition of sulfur or quinoline. This system reduces triple bonds...
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