Difference Between Activated Carbon and Charcoal

Activated Carbon vs Charcoal

Carbon is everywhere. There are millions of compounds, which are made with carbon. We can say that, carbon is the framework for our bodies, plants and micro-organisms. Further, they are in nature, in several forms, as graphite, diamond, charcoal etc.


Charcoal consists of the element carbon. Carbonic compounds are abundant in plants, animals and other living organisms. Therefore, as they die, these carbonic compounds are ultimately converted to other carbonic compounds. Charcoal is one of those products. When water and other volatile substances are removed from the carbonic compounds, the resulting product is charcoal. Charcoal is in the solid form, and it has a dark grey color. It contains ash; therefore, charcoal doesn’t have carbon in its pure form. Charcoal is mainly produced by pyrolysis. This is a method, where organic materials are decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Therefore, the chemical compositions and the physical phase of the matter will change very fast. For example, by heating wood we can obtain charcoal. There are few types of charcoal. They are as follows.

• Lump charcoal

• Extruded charcoal

• Japanese charcoal

• Briquettes

Lump charcoal produces less ash, and it is mainly produced from hardwood material. Extruded charcoal is made from logs, which have been extruded by raw ground wood or carbonized wood. Briquettes are made from saw dust and other wood by-products using a binder. Japanese charcoal doesn’t contain pyroligneous acid because it is removed in the charcoal making process. This type of charcoal doesn’t produce a characteristic smell or a smoke when burning. There are three types of Japanese charcoal as white charcoal, Ogatan and black charcoal. There are many usages to charcoal. It has a long history; from earliest days, charcoal has being used as a fuel. Even today it is used as an important fuel in homes and industries. Charcoal can produce high heat energy since charcoal burns at high temperatures. Charcoal is also added to soil to improve the soil quality. In medicine, charcoal is used to treat gastric problems. Though there are many usages, charcoal production has negative impacts on the environment. This is a threat to the forests as the rate of deforestation is becoming higher in areas where charcoal is produced.

Activated Carbon

Activated carbon is also known as activated charcoal. When producing activated carbon, charcoal is treated with oxygen. When charcoal is activated, it is processed in a way to increase the porosity. Because of this, activated carbon will have a large surface area, which can adsorb substances effectively. This primarily increases its effectiveness as a filter. Therefore, activated carbon is mainly used in water filters, in chemical purification process, and in medicine. As we use them, the impurities tend to accumulate in the carbon surfaces. So the disadvantage of using this is that they become less effective as we use them.


What is the difference between Activated Carbon and Charcoal?

• Activated carbon is made from charcoal.

• Charcoal is produced in the absence of oxygen. To produce activated carbon, charcoal is treated with oxygen.

• Activated carbon is more useful as filters, whereas charcoal is more useful as a fuel.