How Is Activated Carbon Produced?

How Is Activated Carbon Produced?

August 31, 2019

Activated carbon is an important resource for gas and water purification. It has medical, industrial, environmental and agricultural applications. But how is activated carbon produced? Here’s an overview of the process.

What It Is

Activated carbon is a porous version of carbon. The surface area has holes and tunnels, so the carbon can be filled with other materials for filtering or other purposes.

How It’s Made

Activated carbon is created by two processes. First, pure carbon is extracted. A process called pyrolysis is used for this extraction. It is a heating method that starts with dense carbon material. The material is placed in a furnace and heated to temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius. After this heating process is complete, roughly one fourth of the initial weight of carbon material remains.

After the carbon material has undergone pyrolysis, the carbonized material must be oxidized. This is accomplished by one of two methods: gas or chemical treatment.

Gas Treatment

Activated carbon can be created by exposing the carbon material to oxygen. It is placed in a chamber to which gas is inserted. Once the carbon is oxidized, the active carbon is suitable for surface bonding, which makes it useful for filtering. This gas exposure treatment must occur in an extremely hot environment, at around 1,000 degrees Celsius. The heat causes the oxygen to bond with the surface of the carbon.

Chemical Treatment

Using chemicals, activated carbon can be created in one step rather than two. The carbonization and activation can occur at the same time. Using an acid bath, technicians can submerge the carbon material, then heat it to temperatures ranging from 450 to 900 degrees Celsius. This process carbonizes and activates the carbon material, and it does so more quickly than the gas method. However, this process can result in a less pure activated carbon than gas treatment, due to absorption of the chemicals used.


Once activated carbon is produced, it can be processed for a variety of applications. It can be made into a sand-like product called granular activated carbon or combined with other elements to create impregnated carbon.


After activated carbon is processed appropriately, it is used in a wide range of fields. Industrial applications include plating processes—the activated carbon is used in the purification process for nickel plating solutions. In the medical industry, activated carbon is used to treat poisonings. Environmental applications are also common. Activated carbon can help remove pollutants from water sources or from the air. It is a crucial component in drinking water filtration, spill cleanups, groundwater remediation and air purification procedures.

Learn More

Would you like to find out more about activated carbon, how it is created and its potential applications? Contact M.L. Ball Company, Inc. Founded in 1967, M.L. Ball Company, Inc. is a leading distributor of ion exchange resin and activated carbon and is a premier provider of industrial water treatment and power equipment to businesses and governmental entities worldwide. Our broad range of products and services has evolved and grown with the latest technology to exceed our clients’ expectations in providing superior service and value. Contact us today!

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