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Definition and history

Activated carbon is an inert microporous carbon which has undergone a treatment to increase its surface area. It thus has a very large specific surface area which can range from 100 to 2000 m².g-1, hence its high adsorption capacity.

The exploitation of the filtering properties of charcoal for purification and medicine began with the Egyptians in the year 1500 BC. As for the ancient Hindus, they already filtered their water with coals to make it drinkable.

The industrialization of activated carbon proper began at the beginning of the 20th century to meet the needs of sugar refineries. The activated carbon is then used as a bleach.

The production of activated carbon intensified during the First World War due to the proliferation of toxic gases and the development of gas masks. Today, the annual world production of activated carbon reaches 420,000 tonnes.  

License Thesis  Material Sciences Chemistry Sector



Activated charcoal can be produced from any organic plant material rich in carbon: bark, wood pulp , coconut shells, peanut shells, olive kernels, or  coalpeatlignite tailings  oil tankers.


The production is broken down into two stages:

  • A first stage of calcination or carbonization or thermolysis, at high temperature, of the constituent products. A first porosity is created by this step. In fact, the elements, other than carbon, leave pores in the carbon matrix when they volatilize.


  • A second activation step is to increase the power  adsorbent .

Charbon actif
Sectors of use
Sectors of use
Uses activated carbon
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