How does a catalytic poison reduce a catalyst's activity, such as palladium used in the hydrogenation of alkenes or any other such catalyst?


Basically the catalytic poison reduces the activity by slowing or inhibiting the reaction by occupying the surface of the catalyst and therefore the surface area available for the reactants reduces. You can get a general idea from the following text.

Substances which themselves are not catalysts, but when mixed in small quantities with the catalysts increase their efficiency are called as promoters or activators.

Catalyst poisoning refers to the partial or total deactivation of a catalyst caused by exposure to a range of chemical compounds. Poisoning may be desirable when it results in improved selectivity (e.g.Lindlar's catalyst) but may be undesirable when the catalyst is rendered ineffective (e.g. in catalytic converters). Poisoning refers specifically to chemical deactivation, rather than other mechanism of catalyst degradation such as thermal decomposition or physical damage. Poisoning involves compounds which bonds chemically to the active surface sites of a catalyst. This may have two effects: the total number of catalytic sites or the fraction of the total surface area that has the capability of promoting reaction always decreases, and the average distance that a reactant molecule must diffuse through the pore structure before undergoing reaction may increase. Poisoned sites can no longer accelerate the reaction with which the catalyst was supposed to catalyze. Large scale production of substances such as ammonia in the Haber–Bosch process include steps to remove potential poisons from the product stream.

For more info, read the Wikipedia article on Catalytic poisoning.

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