Thermal conductivity, W/(m-K) 0.05-0.10

Thermal conductivity, W/(m-K) 0.05-0.10

Note: Specific values shown are those cited in manufacturers' product literature (19). Typical ranges shown are based on values reported in the open literature. aUnless otherwise noted.

Approximate mm corresponding to cited meshes are (mesh:mm 4:4.76; 8:2.38; 10:2; 12:1.68; 25:0.72; 30:0.59; 325:0.04. To convert J to cal, divide by 4.184.

Figure 1. Thermal activation of bituminous coal

Hot gas -1

Figure 1. Thermal activation of bituminous coal

Activated carbon typical yield of activated carbon is about 30-35% by weight based on the raw coal.

The process for the thermal activation of other carbonaceous materials is modified according to the precursor. For example, the production of activated carbon from coconut shell does not require the stages involving briquet-ting, oxidation, and devolatilization. To obtain a high-activity product, however, it is important that the coconut shell is charred slowly prior to activation of the char. In some processes, the precursor or product is acid-washed to obtain a final product with a low ash content (23,25).

Chemical Activation Processes

In contrast to the thermal activation of coal, chemical activation is generally carried out commercially in a single kiln. The precursor, usually wood, is impregnated with a chemical activation agent, typically phosphoric acid, and the blend is heated to a temperature of 450-700 °C (26). Chemical activation agents reduce the formation of tar and other by-products, thereby increasing carbon yield. The chemical activation process is illustrated in Figure 2 for the production of granular activated carbon from wood (23,27).

Sawdust is impregnated with concentrated phosphoric acid and fed to a rotary kiln, where it is dried, carbonized, and activated at a moderate temperature. To comply with environmental pollution regulations, the kiln off-gases are treated before discharge to the atmosphere. The char is washed with water to remove the acid from the carbon, and the carbon is separated from the slurry. The filtrate is then passed to an acid-recovery unit. Some manufacturing plants do not recycle all the acid but use a part of it to manufacture fertilizer in an allied plant. If necessary, the pH of the activated carbon is adjusted, and the product is dried. The dry product is screened and classified into the size range required for specific granular carbon applications. Carbon yields as high as 50% by weight of the wood precursor have been reported (26).

Novel Manufacturing Processes. Different chemical activation processes have been used to produce carbons with enhanced adsorption characteristics. Activated carbons of exceptionally high surface area (>3,000 m2/g) have been produced by the chemical activation of carbonaceous materials with potassium hydroxide (28,29). Activated carbons are also produced commercially in the form of cloths (30), fibers (31), and foams (32) generally by chemical activation of the precursor with a Lewis acid such as aluminum chloride, ferric chloride, or zinc chloride.

Forms of Activated Carbon Products

To meet the engineering requirements of specific applications, activated carbons are produced and classified as granular, powdered, or shaped products. Granular activated carbons are produced directly from granular precursors, such as sawdust and crushed and sized coconut char or coal. The granular product is screened and sized for specific applications. Powdered activated carbons are obtained by grinding granular products. Shaped activated carbon products are generally produced as cylindrical pellets by extrusion of the precursor with a suitable binder before activation of the precursor.

Shipping and Storage

Activated carbon products are shipped in bags, drums, and boxes in weights ranging from about 10 to 35 kg. Containers can be lined or covered with plastic and should be stored in a protected area both to prevent weather damage and to minimize contact with organic vapors that could reduce the adsorption performance of the product. Bulk quantities of activated carbon products are shipped in metal bins and bulk bags, typically 1-2 m3 in volume, and in railcars and tank trucks. Bulk carbon shipments are generally transferred by pneumatic conveyors and stored in tanks. However, in applications such as water treatment where water adsorption does not impact product performance, bulk carbon may be transferred and stored as a slurry in water.


Activated carbon producers furnish product bulletins that list specifications, usually expressed as a maximum or minimum value, and typical properties for each grade produced. Standards helpful in setting purchasing specifications for granular and powdered activated carbon products have been published (33,34).

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