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Gerhard Ertl, Maria Zielińska, Małgorzata Rajfur and Maria Wacławek


Catalysis is an alternative way for reaching an immediate formation of a product, because of a lower energy barrier (between the molecules and the catalysts). Heterogeneous catalysis comprises the acceleration of a chemical reaction through interaction of the molecules involved with the surface of a solid. It is a discipline, which involves all the different aspects of chemistry: inorganic and analytical chemistry in order to characterize the catalysts and the forms of these catalysts. The industrial chemistry puts all these things together to understand the solid chemical handling, chemical reaction and energy engineering and the heat and mass transfer in these catalytic processes. Very often there are more than one, but several products, then the role of the catalyst is not so much related to activity, but to selectivity. The underlying elementary steps can now be investigated down to the atomic scale as will be illustrated mainly with two examples: the oxidation of carbon monoxide (car exhaust catalyst) and the synthesis of ammonia (the basis for nitrogen fertilizer). There is a huge market for the catalysts themselves despite of their high costs. A large fraction is used for petroleum refineries, automotive and industrial cleaning processes. The catalytic processes is a wide field and there are still many problems concerning energy conservation and energy transformation, so there is much to do in the future.