Activated carbon is a carbonaceous, highly porous adsorptive medium that has a complex structure composed primarily of carbon atoms. The networks of pores in activated carbons are channels created within a rigid skeleton of disordered layers of carbon atoms, linked together by chemical bonds, stacked unevenly, creating a highly porous structure of nooks, crannies, cracks and crevices between the carbon layers.

Activated carbon is used to purify liquids and gases in a variety of applications, including municipal drinking water, food and beverage processing, odor removal, industrial pollution control.

Activated carbon is produced from carbonaceous source materials, such as coconuts, nutshells, coal, peat and wood. The primary raw material used for activated carbon is any organic material with high carbon content.


Types of Activated Carbon

Activated carbon is mainly available in three forms or shapes:

And each form is available in many sizes. Based on the application and requirements, a specific form and size are recommended.

Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC)

PACs typically has a diameter less than 0.1 mm. Advantages of powdered activated carbons are their lower processing costs and their flexibility in operation. PACs are mainly used for liquid-phase adsorption. They are added to the liquid to be treated, mixed with the liquid and, after adsorption, are removed by sedimentation and filtration.

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)

GAC are irregularly shaped particles formed by milling and sieving. These products range from the sizes 0.2mm to 5 mm. They have the advantages of being harder and longer-lasting than powdered activated carbons, clean to handle, purify large volumes of gas or liquids of a consistent quality, and can be reactivated and reused many times. GAC are used in both liquid and gas phase applications and in both fixed and moving systems.

Extruded carbon

These are cylindrical pellets with a diameter ranging from 1mm to 5mm. The extrusion process, together with the raw material used, ensures that the end product is hard and suitable for heavy-duty applications. The extruded pellet form gives a low system pressure drop, which is an important consideration in the gas-phase uses. Markets lie in solvent recovery, gas purification, and automotive emission control, where the high volume activity, low-pressure drop and high stock resistance of extruded carbon enable them to last the entire life of the vehicle.


There are two types of activation

Steam Activation  

Steam activation is the most widely used process because it is generally used to activate both coconut shell and coal based carbons. Steam activated carbons are produced in a two-stage process.

Steam Activation produce activated carbon in the from of 1mm to 3mm pieces, which are crushed and screened to remove fines and dust to meet the specifications for granular activated carbons. To produce powdered activated carbons, the carbon pieces are further ground using a gentle pulverizing action.

Chemical Activation

Chemical Activation is generally used for the production of activated carbon from sawdust, wood or peat. Chemical activation involves mixing the raw material with an activating agent, usually phosphoric acid, to swell the wood and open up the cellulose structure.

Activated carbons produced by this method have a suitable pore distribution to be used as an adsorbent without further treatment. This is because the process used involves an “acid wash” which is used as a purifying step in steam activated carbons, post-activation. Chemically activated carbons, however, have a lower purity than specifically acid-washed steam activated carbons as they contain a small amount of residual phosphate.


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