Just add water

Forget a spoonful of sugar, a drop or two of water is what makes the reaction go down. For reactions in which hydrogen is one of the reactants such as a hydrogenation or a hydrogenolysis the addition of a trace quantities of water can accelerate the process, according to international researchers. Writing in the journal Science, teams led by Manos Mavrikakis of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Flemming Besenbacher at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, explain for the first time how water can speed up such reactions without requiring the heat to be turned up, even if it is added at the parts per million level. The team investigated experimentally and theoretically the effects of water on metal oxide catalysts and demonstrated tiny numbers of water molecules can increase the diffusion of hydrogen atoms by 16 orders of magnitude by acting as a medium for proton hopping.