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Activated charcoal, which may also be known as activated carbon, is a highly porous charcoal that has a huge surface area in comparison to its weight. This makes a very high percentage of the activated charcoal available for chemical reactions.

Activated charcoal tablets or briquettes are popularly used in outdoor grills; smaller tablets that are the approximate size of a quarter are frequently used to burn incense in churches and in homes.

The highly absorptive powers of activated charcoal make it quite useful in many industrial and municipal applications, as well; this substance is frequently used to purify groundwater, filter drinking water, clean up spills, purify air, and determine the amount of radon present in given area.

Activated charcoal is also used in many medical applications. Because it binds to many poisonous substances, activated charcoal is used to treat patients who have been poisoned or taken a drug overdose; it may also be used to help filter the blood of seriously poisoned patients.

In many parts of the world, small activated charcoal tablets and powder are used as a non-prescription remedy for upset stomach and flatulence. These tablets are also often useful for cancer patients whose chemotherapy treatments have caused severe diarrhea.

One of the most important uses for activated charcoal is water purification. Most simple filtration systems intended for home use contain activated charcoal filters that should be changed several times a year. Smaller versions of these filters may also be found in refillable water bottles that filter water on the go.

In the past five years, massive charcoal filters have been implemented to filter the huge volumes of waste water that are produced at sporting events and music festivals.

These huge gatherings have traditionally presented gigantic sanitation problems, and the quantities of waste water produced by them have posed a danger to surrounding lands and groundwater. The huge surface area present in an activated charcoal filter make the substance an incredibly effective water filter.

Activated charcoal and carbon is plentiful and very affordable, making it an increasingly popular and economically viable choice for many types of purification. Charcoal filters are frequently seen in home air purifiers, and recently have been installed in many factories who want to minimize harmful emissions into the atmosphere.


Activated carbon is very effective at trapping mercury emissions from coal power stations, and is also used to filter emissions from medical incinerators. However, the type of activated charcoal used in these advanced applications is more expensive than other types because it is usually impregnated with sulfur or iodine.

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