What is Activated Carbon

Activated carbon (also called activated charcoal, activated coal or active carbon) is a very useful adsorbent. Due to their high surface area, pore structure (micro, meso and macro), and high degree of surface reactivity, activated carbon can be used to purify, dechlorinate, deodorize and decolorize both liquid and vapor applications. Moreover, activated carbons are economical adsorbents for many industries such as water purification, food grade products, cosmotology, automotive applications, industrial gas purification, petroleum and precious metal recovery mainly for gold. The base materials for activated carbons are coconut shell, coal or wood.

Applications of Activated Carbon

Different types of activated carbon are suited for various specialized applications.

  • Granulated activated carbon
  • Pelletized activated carbon
  • Powdered activated carbon
  • Impregnated activated carbon
  • Catalytic activated carbo

Each grade and size of activated carbon is application specific. Selecting the correct activated carbon product and mesh size depends on the application and contaminants you plan to remove.

Typical applications are:

  • Removal of volatile organic compounds such as Benzene, TCE, and PCE.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (HS) and removal of waste gases
  • Impregnated activated carbon used as a bacteria inhibitor in drinking water filters
  • Removal of taste and odor causing compounds such as MIB and geosmine
  • Recovery of gold
  • Removal of chlorine and chloramine

Designing a proper activated carbon filtration system with enough contact time, pressure drop, and vessel size is important. Also, activated carbon’s physical and chemical characteristics play an important role in removing contaminants effectively. Therefore, material testing is essential and ASTM test methods such as butane activity, surface area, density, and water content (moisture) can be carried out to find the best suitable material for your application.

Activated carbon is considered the world’s most powerful absorbent. It is eco-friendly, due to its ability to regenerate

Water Purification

Activated carbon aids in the removal of:

  • Compounds that cause unwanted taste, odor or color
  • Organic materials from decaying plants and other naturally-occurring contaminants
  • Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) linked to chlorine and alternative disinfectants
  • Algal toxins and cyanotoxins, such as microcystin-LR, cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-A
  • Endocrine-disrupting compounds that can adversely affect hormonal systems
  • Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) contamination
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals

Find out more about water purification

Air & Gas Purification

Industrial Air Treatment is another important usage of Activated Carbon.


Activated carbon is the safest, most efficient technology for the removal of VOCs, airborne chemicals, gaseous pollutants, and other fumes and odors in industrial, municipal or commercial applications. Activated carbon systems also have smaller footprints compared to other odor control technologies and are a cost-effective solution to meeting environmental regulations. Carbon systems are ideally suited for intermittent flow / loading applications, as carbon is immediately effective upon start up and instantaneously responds to changes in odor concentration.


Treating the effluent air stream with activated carbon has been found to be one of the best ways to remove hydrogen sulfide. Activated carbon is widely used for odor removal in municipal wastewater treatment plants using methods that agitate sewage or accumulate sludge.


Our powdered activated carbon, when injected into flue gas, reduces harmful emissions to help you meet the newer, more stringent regulations. Vapor phase activated carbon treatment removes contaminants from vapor streams in industrial, municipal or commercial applications. As the vapor stream passes through vessels containing activated carbon, volatile organic compounds are adsorbed by the media.


Our impregnated, powdered activated carbon is technologically designed to remove mercury in its gaseous form in the flue gas stream and convert it into a particulate that can be collected downstream. The distinctive pore structure of this product makes it ideal for the rapid adsorptive removal of mercury from combustion gases at many temperatures.

Find out more about EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)

Find out more about Air Purification

Metal Recovery

Particularly in gold recovery, activated carbon is the key element in CIC, CIL and CIP processes.

Mining operations must keep output high despite ever-diminishing supplies of high-quality ore; plants must control operating costs while maintaining environmental responsibility. Profitability can be crucially affected by rates of recovery, plant performance and reliable supply lines. High-quality activated carbon is vital to the gold extraction operation. Using activated carbon of optimal hardness minimizes fines and recovers more gold.

By maximizing the efficiency of your gold recovery process, Carbon Activated products and services help maintain your bottom line.

More about Precious Metal Recovery

Types of Activated Carbon

Coconut shell-based activated carbon

The very large internal surface areas characterized by microporosity along with high hardness and low dust make these coconut shell carbons particularly attractive for water and critical air applications as well as point-of-use water filters and respirators

  • Very high surface area characterized by a large proportion of micropores
  • High hardness with low dust generation
  • Excellent purity, with most products exhibiting no more than 3-5% ash content.
  • Renewable and green raw material.

More about Coconut shell activated carbon

Coal-based activated carbon

Demand is typically high for this relatively low cost filter media for both gas and liquid applications.

Coal based activated carbon has a high surface area characterized by both mesopores and micropores.

  • Consistent density
  • Hard materials with minimal dust generation.
  • Economical

More about Coal based activated carbon

Wood based activated carbon

It produces different performance characteristics in industrial applications typically catered to with coal or coconut products.

Wood based activated carbon has a high surface area characterized by both mesopores and micropores and has excellent decolorizing properties owing to its signature porosimetry

  • Relatively low density
  • Renewable source of raw material

More about wood based activated carbon

Catalytic Activated Carbon

Catalytic carbon is a class of activated carbon used to remove chloramines and hydrogen sulfide from drinking water.

It has all the adsorptive characteristics of conventional activated carbons, as well as the ability to promote chemical reactions.

Catalytic carbon is not impregnated with caustic chemicals

Because catalytic carbons have no impregnates, you won’t have to worry about reduced organic odor capacity or the higher bed fire potential of the impregnated carbons.

Catalytic carbon is created by altering the surface structure of activated carbon. It is modified by gas processing at high temperatures to change the electronic structure and create the highest level of catalytic activity on carbon for reducing chloramine and H2S in water. This added catalytic functionality is much greater than that found in traditional activated carbons. Catalytic carbon is an economical solution to treat H2S levels as high as 20 to 30 ppm. Catalytic carbon converts adsorbed H2S into sulfuric acid and sulfurous acid which are water soluble, so carbon systems can be regenerated with water washing to restore H2S capacity for less frequent physical change-outs.

More about Catalytic Activated Carbons

Impregnated Activated Carbon

Surface impregnation chemically modifies activated carbon through a fine distribution of chemicals and metal particles on the internal surfaces of its pores. This greatly enhances the carbon’s adsorptive capacity through a synergism between the chemicals and the carbon. And provides a cost-effective way to remove impurities from gas streams which would otherwise not be possible.

Water treatment

Because of its antimicrobial/antiseptic properties, silver-impregnated carbon is an effective adsorbent for purification in earth-bound domestic and other water systems.

Gas purification

Impregnated activated carbon is used to treat flue gases in coal-fired generation plants and other air pollution control applications. Carbon can be specifically impregnated for removal of acid gases, ammonia and amines, aldehydes, radio-active iodine, mercury and inorganic gases such as arsine and phosphine. Carbon impregnated with metal-oxide targets inorganic gases including HCN, H2S, phosphine and arsine.

More about Impregnated activated carbon