Activated Carbon and Its Applications
To the layman Activated carbon is something that he has heard of in recent commercials or as a part of some filtration device either filtering air or water. Also known as Activated Charcoal, activated carbon is a form of carbon which is made primarily from carbon atoms stacked unevenly in a rigid structure to form a highly porous structure having a huge surface area. It is this very property of activated carbon that sees it being used in a vast variety of applications that will be discussed later in this article. Activated carbon works through the process of adsorption. It is defined as the process of accumulation of a large number of gaseous or liquid molecules at the surface of a solid. Due to the large surface area of Activated Carbon, it has great adsorption capabilities. Activated Carbon is usually made from carbonaceous materials like bamboo, coconut shells, bone char, coal, olive pits, and sawdust. The charcoal is activated using two methods, Chemical Activation or Steam activation, the latter being the most widely used method. These processes change its texture making it more porous and increase its surface area.
Activated charcoal is a universally promoted, highly potent natural treatment. It is being increasingly used in various fields. From industrial to pharmaceutical to everyday products, activated charcoal has found a special place. It has both gas phase application and liquid phase application, the liquid greatly exceeding the gas phase application. Activated carbon is used for a wide variety of purposes, from air and water purification to metal extraction to sewage treatment.
Industrial: Activated carbon plays a very important role in the metal and iron industries.It is used in electroplating and metal finishing. Activated carbon helps in removing impurities in nickel plating. Excessive impurities can have an adverse effect on the plating quality and the physical quality of the metal
Medical: Another field of application of activated carbon is medicine. It is used as an emergency treatment for poisoning and overdose, which happens orally. Activated carbon helps prevent the stomach from absorbing the poison. It can bind the drugs together reducing their effect.
Activated charcoal is often used in capsule form for medicinal purposes
It is also known for reducing intestinal gases and lower cholesterol levels. It is also believed to cleanse the body of toxins and improve the health and appearance of the skin.
Personal care: Today, activated charcoal has found itself a new role. It is being increasingly used in various skin care and personal care products. Activated carbon in, powder form can be brushed onto teeth, removing stains and whitening their appearance. Evidence also suggests that activated carbon can prevent tooth decay by making the mouth less acidic. It is used in mask form to get clear, blemish-free skin.
Environmental: Activated carbon is also greatly used in automotive emission control and also emissions from coal-powered power plants and MWI’s (Municipal Waste Incinerators) as a gas filter. It helps in adsorbing
the mercury and other noxious gases generated as a result of the combustion process thereby making the exhaust gases much cleaner. Air purifiers used at home and industries contain activated carbon, which helps remove Volatile organic compounds or VOCs that are released by various products and appliances such as paints and refrigerators as well as cooking fumes. Air purifiers with activated charcoal are particularly more beneficial for people who suffer from asthma and other breathing issues.
The industrial use of activated carbon is associated with cleaning of biogas, which is the product of decomposition of organic material. The activated charcoal traps the VOCs and other pollutants that result from biogas before it has a chance to damage its surroundings. It is also used for water purification in homes as well as industries. It helps remove bacteria, algae as well as pesticide. Big industries used it for treating contaminated water, thereby reducing the environmental damage significantly.
Agricultural: when one thinks of carbon or charcoal one usually does not associate it with being environment-friendly. However, activated charcoal can be extremely useful and good for agriculture. If used correctly, it can serve a variety of purposes. Activated charcoal is used as a top coating on seeds to protect them from harmful pesticides and chemicals. It stores necessary nutrients in its pores and releases them over time into the soil. This process helps to ensure healthy crop growth.