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How To Make Activated Charcoal

If you’re interested in learning how to make activated charcoal, you’ve come to the right place.

Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent substance that can be used for a variety of purposes, including water filtration, air purification, and even teeth whitening.

While you can purchase activated charcoal at many health food stores, making your own can be a fun and rewarding DIY project.

To make activated charcoal, you’ll need a source of carbon-rich material, such as coconut shells or hardwood.

The material is burned at a high temperature in the absence of oxygen, creating charred remains that are then treated with a chemical activator, such as calcium chloride or zinc chloride.

The result is a highly porous substance with a large surface area, which makes it incredibly effective at absorbing impurities and toxins.

While making activated charcoal can be a bit time-consuming and requires some specialized equipment, the process is relatively straightforward and can be done at home with a bit of patience and attention to detail.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps of making activated charcoal, from sourcing your materials to activating and drying your finished product. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to make your own activated charcoal!

How To Make Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that has increased surface area for adsorption. It is made by subjecting carbon-rich materials to extremely high temperatures with the addition of other substances.

Here is a breakdown of the materials and process involved in making activated charcoal:

activated charcoal in kilns

Materials

The materials used to make activated charcoal can vary, but typically include:

  • Wood (e.g. coconut shells, bamboo, peat, woods, coir, lignite, pitch)
  • Calcium chloride or zinc chloride solution
  • Burning sink
  • Oven
  • Blender

Process

The process of making activated charcoal involves the following steps:

  • The carbon-rich material is first burned in a sink or oven to create char.
  • The char is then treated with a chemical activator such as calcium chloride or zinc chloride solution. This process is called chemical activation.
  • The mixture is then heated to a high temperature, typically between 600 and 900 degrees Celsius, in a furnace with limited oxygen. This process is called pyrolysis.
  • The resulting product is then cooled, crushed, and ground into a fine powder.
  • The powder is then washed with water to remove any remaining impurities.
  • The final step involves drying the activated charcoal, typically in an oven, to remove any remaining moisture.

Once the activated charcoal has been made, it can be used for a variety of applications, including water filtration, air purification, and medical treatments.

Methods Of Activating Charcoal

If you want to make activated charcoal, you need to activate it first. There are three main methods of activating charcoal: steam activation, chemical activation, and physical activation. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Steam Activation

Steam activation is one of the most common methods of activating charcoal. In this method, you expose the charcoal to high-temperature steam in the presence of an inert gas like nitrogen or argon.

This process removes impurities and creates a large surface area, making the charcoal highly porous.

Steam activation is ideal for producing activated charcoal with a high surface area and a low ash content.

This method is commonly used in the food and beverage industry to purify water, remove impurities from sugar, and decolorize liquids.

Chemical Activation

Chemical activation involves treating the charcoal with a chemical agent like phosphoric acid, zinc chloride, or potassium hydroxide.

The chemical agent removes the impurities and creates a highly porous structure, similar to steam activation.

Chemical activation is ideal for producing activated charcoal with a high surface area and a well-defined pore structure.

This method is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry to purify drugs, remove toxins from the body, and treat poisonings.

Physical Activation

Physical activation involves subjecting the charcoal to high temperatures in the absence of air. This process removes the impurities and creates a highly porous structure, similar to steam and chemical activation.

Physical activation is ideal for producing activated charcoal with a high surface area and a low ash content.

This method is commonly used in the environmental industry to purify air and water, remove impurities from soil, and treat hazardous waste.

Overall, the method you choose depends on the specific application of the activated charcoal.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right method for your needs.

activated charcoal in pitcher of water

Precautions and Safety Measures

Handling And Storage

Activated charcoal is safe to handle, but it is important to take precautions to avoid skin and eye contact. Always wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling activated charcoal.

Store activated charcoal in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. Keep it in a tightly sealed container to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air.

Ingestion And Inhalation

Activated charcoal is generally safe to ingest in small quantities, but it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before consuming it.

Do not inhale activated charcoal powder, as it can irritate your lungs and cause respiratory problems.

If you accidentally inhale activated charcoal, move to an area with fresh air and seek medical attention if necessary.

Disposal

Dispose of activated charcoal properly. Do not dispose of activated charcoal in the sink or toilet, as it can clog pipes.

Instead, dispose of it in a sealed container and place it in the trash. If you have a large amount of activated charcoal to dispose of, contact your local waste management facility for guidance on proper disposal methods.

Key Points

Here are the key points you need to keep in mind when making activated charcoal:

  • Activated charcoal is made by heating carbon-rich materials at high temperatures with the addition of other substances.
  • The most common carbon-rich materials used to make activated charcoal are coconut shells, wood, peat, bamboo, and coal.
  • Activated charcoal has a wide range of uses, including water filtration, air purification, and medical treatment.
  • When making activated charcoal, it’s important to take safety precautions and use protective gear, such as gloves and a mask, as the process involves high temperatures and toxic fumes.
  • The process of making activated charcoal involves several steps, including burning the carbon-rich material, crushing it into a powder, and activating it with a chemical agent.
  • Activated charcoal should be stored in a dry, airtight container to prevent it from absorbing moisture and losing its effectiveness.

By following these key points, you can successfully make activated charcoal at home and use it for a variety of purposes.

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