CO hydrogenation is used as a model system to understand why multiphase catalysts are chemically important in heterogeneous catalysis. By including both adsorption and subsequent surface reactions, kinetic equations are derived with two fundamental properties, the chemisorption energies of C and O (Delta H-C and Delta H-O, respectively). By plotting the activity against Delta H-C and Delta H-O, a 3-D volcano surface is obtained. Because of the constraint between Delta H-C and Delta H-O on monophase systems, a maximum can be achieved. However, if multiphase systems are used, such a constraint can be released and the global maximum may be achieved.
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