Homogeneous Catalysts


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Mechanism for the hydrogenation of an alkene catalyzed by the homogeneous catalyst Wilkinson’s catalyst. Source: By Smokefoot – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88901695

Homogeneous Catalysts (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

A homogeneous catalyst is present in the same phase as the reactants. It interacts with a reactant to form an intermediate substance, which then decomposes or reacts with another reactant in one or more steps to regenerate the original catalyst and form product.

As an important illustration of homogeneous catalysis, consider the earth’s ozone layer. Ozone in the upper atmosphere, which protects the earth from ultraviolet radiation, is formed when oxygen molecules absorb ultraviolet light and undergo the reaction:

Ozone is a relatively unstable molecule that decomposes to yield diatomic oxygen by the reverse of this equation. This decomposition reaction is consistent with the following two-step mechanism:

A number of substances can catalyze the decomposition of ozone. For example, the nitric oxide–catalyzed decomposition of ozone is believed to occur via the following three-step mechanism:

As required, the overall reaction is the same for both the two-step uncatalyzed mechanism and the three-step NO-catalyzed mechanism:

Notice that NO is a reactant in the first step of the mechanism and a product in the last step. This is another characteristic trait of a catalyst: Though it participates in the chemical reaction, it is not consumed by the reaction.


Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e


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