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What is Activated Carbon?

Activated carbon is a high purity form of carbon with a very high surface area, characterised by microscopic pores. It is also sometimes referred to as active carbon or activated charcoal.


It is generally manufactured from carbonaceous raw materials such as high quality coals, coconut shells or wood, although other raw materials are constantly being investigated and developed.

The raw material is charred, in the absence of oxygen, before it undergoes an activation process that opens up the microscopic pore structure and imparts the huge surface area required for purification applications.

The activation process is normally performed in a high temperature kiln in the presence of steam, although other techniques are utilised within the carbon industry, for example activation with acidic chemicals.

It is the huge surface area of activated carbons that makes them suitable for removing unwanted impurities from liquid and gas phase streams, in a process called ‘adsorption’.

Activated carbons are generally supplied in either granular (GAC), powdered (PAC) or extruded/pellet forms, although other physical forms such as carbon cloth and solid carbon monoliths also exist.

The choice between granular, powder and extruded carbons depends on the details of the customer’s process and the treatment objectives they have for the purification step(s).

Here at CPL Activated Carbons, we have a team of experts ready to help customers select the optimum purification solution for their process, in terms of the best carbons, filters and, where possible, reactivation of the spent adsorbent.

Any company importing activated carbons into the European Union requires certification under the REACH regulations (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals, coordinated by the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA), and CPL has full certification for both its UK and Spanish entities.

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