Platinum as a Catalyst
Catalysis is surely one of the most important technologies in the chemical industry. Catalytic processes play a decisive role in very many chemical products that we encounter in everyday life, and also in the processing of raw materials, in energy generation and in environmental and climatic protection.
One distinguishes generally between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. In homogeneous catalysis, the catalyst and the catalyzed system are present in the same phase, whereas in heterogeneous catalysis the catalyst is present in a different aggregate state to the catalyzed system.
The special significance of platinum and its outstanding properties in catalysis were already recognized at an early stage. As one of the first technical applications, J.W. Döbereiner (1780-1849) used a fine platinum wire to ignite hydrogen gas in the lighter that bears his name. Some of the first catalytic processes used in industry also employ the catalytic properties of platinum and other precious metals – examples are the contact process for the manufacture of sulfuric acid and the oxidation of ammonia to nitric acid (Ostwald process).