What was the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century? Of course, there are several candidates! However, many people think it was the discovery by Haber and Bosch that iron could be used as a catalyst to make ammonia out of nitrogen and hydrogen. Have you wondered why we do not collapse from breathing in the poisonous carbon monoxide produced when petrol is combusted in cars? It is because cars have catalytic converters – you may not have realized that these are actually rather valuable, since they contain precious metals! A catalyst is an agent that facilitates a chemical reaction, either making it possible or making it easier.
I will discuss how important catalysts are for modern life, and how they work. I will also tell you about the race that is currently on to find the catalysts that will hopefully change our lives in the near future.