Activated Carbon is a term used to describe material (usually organic) that has been heated at temperatures above 600°F (315°C), or first impregnated with a strong acidic or base material and then heated at temperatures above 450°F (232°C). This treatment burns or “carbonizes” the material. Carbon has a natural affinity for organic materials which bind to its surface. The activation process creates microscopic pores that increase the surface area of each particle, giving rise to activated carbon’s status as a highly reliable adsorbent.
Activated carbons are made from a wide array of organic materials, ranging from coal to peach pits. Activated carbon is available in powdered (PAC), granulated (GAC), and pellet forms. The type of activated carbon chosen will likely depend on its intended application. An activated carbon with large holes is best suited at picking up heavy organic chemicals, such as benzene, while smaller pores would catch the lighter, sometimes more gaseous pollutants.1
Activated carbon has been historically used for removal of odor, color pigments and various catalytic functions. However, recent process advancements in the creation of activated carbon have led to more discoveries for its use. Activated carbon is now a key material in drinking water treatment, kidney filtering machine applications, cleaning waterborne industrial waste spills and in gold recovery.2