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What is Charcoal?

Charcoal is an organic carbon compound. charcoal is produced by the incomplete combustion of plant and animal products. Charcoal is widely used in outdoor cooking. Charcoal is generally obtained from the burning of plant parts like wood, peat, bones, and cellulose. It is a highly porous microcrystalline structure. Charcoal is mixed with clay to save energy in the brick formation process. It is also known as impure graphite form. Charcoal has a porous texture and a negative electrical charge. When charcoal is obtained from the coal, it is called activated coal.

Structure of Charcoal

Charcoal exists in many different forms. It exists in the impure form as the microcrystalline graphitic form.

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The charcoal structure shows it consists of an aromatic structure or carbon (carbon ring with alternate double and single bond). This aromatic structure of charcoal consists of oxygen and carbon-free radical.

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Properties of Charcoal

Physical Properties of Charcoal

  • Charcoal exists in a solid amorphous state.

  • The colour of the charcoal powder is black.

  • Charcoal is a black porous solid that consists of carbon.

  • It is a low-density compound.

  • Charcoal shows low mechanical strength properties.

  • The structure of carbon charcoal shows a large surface area.

  • Charcoal acts as a good absorbent. It readily absorbs moisture.

  • The high surface area of charcoal and high porosity enhances the contamination of charcoal by incidental contacts with dust and soil. Therefore, it requires precautions while storing.

Chemical Properties of Charcoal

  • Charcoal is a low ash compound. This property of charcoal makes it a high-value product.

  • It is a highly combustible compound.

  • It shows high reactivity towards carbon dioxide.

  • Charcoal is not easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract 

  • Charcoal is not metabolized in the body.

  • Charcoal is a high surface area compound. Therefore, it absorbs chemicals in the stomach.

  • Charcoal traps the chemicals and carries them out of the body without allowing them to be absorbed into the blood.

Types of Charcoal

  1. Activated Charcoal - Activated charcoal is a fine powder black in colour, made from bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, and coal. Charcoal gets activated when heated at a high temperature. The heating process for the formation of activated charcoal increases the surface area by reducing the pore size. In this form of charcoal, the number of pores is higher than the other forms of charcoal.

Use of Activated Charcoal

  • Activated charcoal traps the toxins and harmful chemicals in the gut. It is, therefore, responsible for the prevention of absorption.

  • Due to the negative charge in the charcoal, it attracts the positive charged harmful molecules. Therefore, it helps in removing these particles.

  1. Wood Charcoal - Wood charcoal is a carbon compound made by strongly heating plant parts (plant wood). It is a lightweight compound. The colour of wood charcoal is black. It exists in a solid-state. 

  2. BBQ Charcoal - BBQ charcoal is made by compressing sawdust without binders or additives under high temperature and pressure. This type of charcoal is preferred in Taiwan, Korea, Greece, and the Middle East countries. It has a hole through the centre, with a hexagonal intersection. The application of BBQ charcoal is primarily for barbecue as it does not produce any odour, smoke, little ash, high heat upon long burning (more than 4 hours).

  3. Coconut Shell Charcoal - Coconut shell charcoal is the form of activated charcoal made up of coconut shells. Therefore, known as activated coconut charcoal. This type of charcoal is used for medicinal purposes. It is used for treating soft tissue and skin infections. It shows antibacterial properties. This form of charcoal is also known as coconut coal.

  4. Activated Bamboo Charcoal - In this form, bamboo undergoes a pyrolysis reaction in the absence of oxygen and becomes activated. This form of charcoal is categorised into two types: Raw Bamboo Charcoal and Bamboo BBQ (Briquette) Charcoal.

Use of Charcoal

  • Restaurant charcoal is used in restaurants for cooking, heating, and adding flavours to the food.

  • Charcoal is used as an absorbent for removing several harmful toxins.

  • It is used in emergency medical conditions like the treatment of overdoses and poisoning.

Did You Know?

  • Charcoal is used to assist the kidney (nephron) function by filtering toxic chemicals.

  • Charcoal is used as a natural water filter.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the properties of the charcoal?

The properties of charcoal are given below:

  • Charcoal is a good absorbent. Therefore,  it is used for removing moisture in the laboratory.

  • The charcoal is a high surface area compound. Charcoal bears a high number of pores in it. Therefore, it is called a porous compound. The combination of high surface and a high number of pores enhances the contamination on it. Incidental contacts of dust and soil contaminate the quality of charcoal. Therefore, we need to take precautions while storing.

  • The charcoal powder (amorphous) is black in colour.

  • Charcoal is a black solid-state molecule that consists of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

2. Write the uses of charcoal.

The charcoal is used for the following purposes:

  • Restaurant charcoal is a form of charcoal, which is used in restaurants for cooking and adding flavours into the food.

  • Charcoal is used as an intoxicating agent. Therefore, it is used for extracting various harmful toxins.

  • Charcoal is used for the treatment of removing overdoses and poisoning when consumed accidentally.