P603: Catalysis of hydrogen peroxide decomposition
Demonstrations play a large role in chemistry lecture courses at Penn State. Chemical demonstrations show students how molecular level behavior gives rise to macroscopic phenomena and how an understanding of chemistry enables us to predict properties and describe processes. The concept of catalysis in particular is difficult to envision at the microscopic level because the increase in reaction rate happens through a number of different mechanisms. This presentation will demonstrate and compare the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by a homogenous catalyst, a heterogeneous catalyst, and an enzyme. The homogeneous reaction mechanism is dramatically illustrated by visual observation of an intermediate, the heterogeneous mechanism explores the available amount of surface area, and enzyme activity is compared to that of the denatured enzyme. Understanding the differences and similarities between these processes at a molecular level is essential to a rich conceptual understanding of catalysis.