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Difference Between Catalyst and Enzyme

Main Difference

The main difference between Catalyst and Enzyme is that Catalyst is known as the chemical substance that speeds up the rate of a chemical reaction, whereas Enzyme is a globular protein that speeds up the rate of a biochemical reaction.

Catalyst vs. Enzyme

A substance that maximizes the rate of a chemical reaction without having any change in its chemical structure is known as a catalyst; on the other hand, a biological molecule formed by living organisms that catalyze particular bio reactions at body temperature. Catalysts could either be enzymes or inorganic salts, whereas enzymes considered as a type of catalyst.

The types of inorganic catalysts are mineral ions or small molecules; on the contrary, the enzymes are globular proteins. The inorganic catalysts are present similar in size to the molecule of the substrate; on the flip side, the size of enzymes is very larger as compared to the substrate molecule.

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The molecular weight of the inorganic catalyst is low, while the molecular weight of enzymes is high. The inorganic catalysts normally act on physical reactions; on the other hand, enzymes always act on biochemical reactions. Catalysts usually work less efficiently; on the contrary, enzymes work highly efficiently.

The catalysts can maximize the rate of various sets of reactions, whereas enzymes can only act and increase the rate of a particular reaction. The regulator molecules cannot control the function of inorganic catalysts; on the flip side, the regulator molecules can regulate the function of enzymes by binding of regulatory molecules with the specific enzyme.

The inorganic catalysts are not sensitive to small temperature changes, so they work at high temperatures; on the other hand, enzymes are temperature specific, so at low temperatures, enzymes become inactive, and at high temperatures, enzymes get denatured.

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The inorganic catalysts are not usually sensitive to small changes occurring in pH; conversely, enzymes are sensitive to small pH changes and operate only at a specific range of pH. Inorganic catalysts work only at high pressure, while enzymes work only at standard pressure. On inorganic salts, protein poisons contain no effect; on the flip side, enzymes can be affected and poisoned by protein poisons.

Short wave radiations contain no effect on the inorganic catalysts, while short wave radiations can have denatured the enzymes. The main examples of catalysts are iron, platinum, and vanadium oxide. On the contrary, some examples of the enzyme are Glucose-6-phosphate, alcohol dehydrogenase, amylase, lipase, and aminotransferase.

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Comparison Chart

CatalystEnzyme
Catalyst defined as the molecules that speed up the rate of a reaction without having a change in its structure.An enzyme is known as a biological catalyst and globular protein that speed up natural reactions.
Correlation
Could either be enzymes or inorganic saltsConsidered as a type of a catalyst
Type
Mineral ions or small moleculesGlobular proteins
Size Difference
Similar in size to the molecule of substrateVery larger as compared to the substrate molecule
Molecular Weight
The molecular weight is lowThe molecular weight of enzymes is high
Action
Normally act on physical reactionsAlways act on biochemical reactions
Efficiency
Work less efficientlyWork highly efficiently
Specificity
Can maximize the rate of various set of reactionsCan only act and increase the rate of a particular reaction
Regulator Molecules
Cannot control the function of inorganic catalystsCan regulate the function of enzymes by binding of regulatory molecules with the specific enzyme
Temperature
Not sensitive to small temperature changes, so they work at high temperaturesTemperature specific, so at low temperature, enzymes become inactive, and at high temperature, enzymes get denatured
pH
Not usually sensitive to small changes occurring in pHSensitive to small pH changes and operate only at a specific range of pH
Pressure
Work only at high pressureWork only at normal pressure
Protein Poisons
Protein poisons contain no effectCan be affected and poisoned by protein poisons
Short Wave Radiations
Contain no effect on the inorganic catalystsCan have denatured the enzymes
Examples
Iron, platinum, and vanadium oxideGlucose-6-phosphate, alcohol dehydrogenase, amylase, lipase, and aminotransferase

What is Catalyst?

A specific substance that permits the chemical reactions to occur at a faster rate under different conditions is known as a catalyst. Typically, only a small amount of catalyst is needed to start or catalyze the reaction. Usually, the catalysts decrease the rate of activation energy of a reaction by leading another pathway to the reaction. A temporary intermediate is formed at a low energy state when catalysts react with the substrate.

Types of Catalyst

  • Inorganic Catalyst: They could be either a transition metal or maybe a transition metal oxide. The transition metals contain a wide range of specificity. The transition metals provide a convenient surface area for the occurrence of chemical reactions in different ways, which lower the rate of activation energy of a chemical reaction. They used as fine powders having a maximum surface area. The inorganic catalysts further divided into two categories base on the nature of a substance as heterogeneous catalysts or homogeneous catalysts.
  • Enzyme: It is a globular protein that catalyzes the many biochemical reactions inside the cell in the presence of specific body temperature.

What is an Enzyme?

A biological macromolecule that is formed by the living organisms for catalyzing the biochemical reactions inside the specific cells at average body temperatures. The functions of enzymes are extensive as they are crucial to the maintenance of life.

All the biochemical reactions, which are occurring inside the body of living organisms, depend on enzymes around 4,000 enzymes well known till now. Enzymes usually act in ordinary conditions such as normal body temperature and pH.

The functions of enzymes are highly specific in which their primary function is to catalyze the building reactions and breakdown of many materials inside the living organisms. The enzymes are composed of globular proteins having high molecular weight.

The enzymes need cofactors for their assistance during their work. The cofactors are considered inorganic ions such as Zn2+, Mg2+, Fe2+, and Mn2+, or many small organic molecules are known as co-enzymes. The activity of enzymes can be accelerated or inhibited by the binding of cofactors of the enzyme.

Key Differences

  1. A catalyst considered as a substance that speeds up the rate of chemical reactions without having any permanent in their structure; on the other hand, an enzyme is considered biological molecules that are synthesized by the living organisms that work at body temperatures.
  2. Inorganic catalysts contain low molecular weight; on the contrary, the enzyme contains high molecular weight.
  3. The catalysts usually act on physical reactions, while enzyme acts on biochemical reactions of living organisms.
  4. The inorganic catalysts work at high temperatures because they are not sensitive towards small temperature changes; conversely, enzymes do not operate on high temperatures; instead, they operate on normal temperatures.
  5. Inorganic catalysts are usually not sensitive to small pH changes, whereas enzymes operate on particular ranges of pH.
  6. The protein poisons do not have any effect on inorganic catalysts, while short wave radiations denatured the properties of enzymes.

Conclusion

Catalyst and enzyme are the substances that speed up the rate of a chemical reaction by minimizing the activation energy. The difference between them is that catalysts are small molecules that catalyze the chemical reactions of the living organisms, while enzymes are considered macromolecules that catalyze specific biochemical reactions.

Janet White

Janet White is a writer and blogger for Difference Wiki since 2015. She has a master's degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University. Apart from work, she enjoys exercising, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Connect with her on Twitter @Janet__White