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Biology LibreTexts

4.0: Introduction to Catalysis

If there is a magical component to life, an argument can surely be made for it being catalysis. Thanks to catalysis, reactions that could take hundreds of years to complete in the “real world," occur in seconds in the presence of a catalyst. Chemical catalysts, like platinum, speed reactions, but enzymes (which are simply super-catalysts with a twist) put chemical catalysts to shame. To understand enzymatic catalysis, we must first understand energy. In Chapter 2, we noted the tendency for processes to move in the direction of lower energy. Chemical reactions follow this universal trend, but they often have a barrier in place that must be overcome. The secret to catalytic action is reducing the magnitude of that barrier, as we shall see.

Figure 4.0.1: Enzyme Rate Enhancements