2 March 2024

Charcoal is a solid, brittle and porous combustible material with a high carbon content (of the order of 98%). It is produced by strongly heating wood (or other plant materials) to temperatures ranging from 400 to 700 °C, in the absence of air, in a minimum of oxygen to remove all water and volatile components.

Was the first material used by man and its use probably dates from the very moment in which it began to benefit from fire. Charcoal burns at a higher temperature than wood, with hardly any visible flame, and releases almost nothing but heat and carbon dioxide.

In addition, charcoal is a porous material, which allows it to have applications from absorbent, fuel in barbecues and kitchens to being used as antidote for certain poisonings in the medical industry. It differs from activated carbon in that the latter has undergone a stimulation process to increase its porosity.

Why is charcoal called carbon residue?

Charcoal is known by the name of carbon residue due to the way in which it is produced, which is from the incomplete combustion of wood or vegetable materials and a burned residue is obtained as a result. This process is known as charring which, in simple words, is when the logs or plant debris is heated.

By subjecting these elements to heat, all components that are not carbon are eliminated, such as water, gases and oils, whose objective is to obtain a black and light substance that consists mainly of carbon. This is the element that makes it up and that is why it acquires the name of carbon residue.

It is important to note that this is characterized by its high percentage of carbonwhich makes it a combustible and porous material, as well as being a solid and brittle element.

Therefore, despite being known as carbon residue, has many practical applications. From the production of energy, the purification of gases and liquids to the production of chemical and metallurgical articles.

What is the difference between charcoal and activated charcoal?

These are two varied products that are obtained from the burning of organic materials. Due to the similarity in their production, one might think that they are the same element, but have characteristics that vary and make them relevant in different areas or industries.

For a better explanation, their main differences are detailed below:

Charcoal:

  • It is produced by heating wood or other organic elements at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen.
  • It is a product made by man.
  • is a component solid and porous with a high carbon content.
  • It is used in barbecues and kitchens, and in medicine as an antidote for certain poisonings.
  • Does not undergo an acceleration process to increase its porosity.

Activated carbon:

  • It is achieved through charcoal burning at very high temperatures.
  • It is a substance of organic origin that is obtained from vegetable, shell, wood, lignite and peat products.
  • It is subjected to processes whose purpose is to increase its degree of porosity and internal surface.
  • It is capable of fixing a large amount of substrates (water, electrolytes, etc.) to its area.
  • It is used to remove harmful components and toxins from the body. From chemical elements, drugs, heavy metals to food additives and generally toxic.
  • It is used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.
  • It differs from charcoal in that it has gone through a acceleration process to increase its porosity.

In conclusion, the main difference between charcoal and activated charcoal lies in the fact that the latter undergoes a stimulation process to increase its porosity and its ability to pollutant absorption.

This allows you to have applications like absorbent and remover of toxic substances, this being a more powerful and effective form of treatment.

What uses does charcoal have?

It is a combustible, solid, brittle and porous material that is obtained through heating wood or organic waste in the absence of air (carbonization) with temperatures between 400-700 °C.

This has been used by man since he first used fire. Its management has evolved, being used as fuel in grills and kitchens. In medicine it is administered as an antidote to certain poisonings and as an absorbent due to its ability to trap molecules or ions. In fact, it is known by historians that charred wood was used as Medical absorbent from ancient Egypt.

So, to better understand, charcoal is used in:

  • Fuel: used as flammable in barbecues, fireplaces and stoves. Due to its high combustion temperature and its ability to provide constant heat, it has become a popular energy source in cooking food.
  • Water purification: it is used to purify this liquid due to its ability to absorb impuritieschemicals and gases.
  • Fertilizer: used as a effective way to nourish plants, fruits and vegetables in agriculture. It has the ability to retain nutrients and water, with the aim of improving soil quality and stimulating vegetation growth.
  • Natural deodorant: due to its ability to absorb moisture and neutralize odorsIt is often used as a natural deodorant. For this reason, it is placed in shoe bags, closets and refrigerators with the aim of helping to eliminate bad odors.
  • Medical treatment: used in medicine as a adjuvant in digestive problemsto reduce cholesterol levels and improve intestinal health, among other benefits.

What is the carbonization process of wood or firewood?

It is a procedure in which the logs are subjected to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to produce charcoal. This process is carried out at high temperatures and in the absence of oxygenwhich prevents the complete combustion of organic matter.

During the charring process, wood or firewood breaks down into simple elements as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are rearranged into a new molecular structure to form charcoal. The process involves heating wood or firewood to temperatures above 400°C.

In most cases, the development of carbonization takes place in ovens or closed chambers to control the conditions of temperature and oxygen and avoid the complete combustion of organic matter. The process can take several hours or even days, depending on the amount of wood or firewood being treated and the type of oven or chamber used.

Of course, being a process studied and specialized over time, it has a series of steps that guarantee the final result and these are the following:

  1. Wood preparation: it is cut into small pieces and stacked in the shape of a pyramid or oven.
  2. Heating: The fire is lit at the bottom of the woodpile and covered with earth or sand to prevent oxygen from entering. The heat generated by the combustion of the wood causes the gas to be expelled.
  3. Carbonization: the released vapors decompose into carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and other gases. The wood is spoiled and is transformed into charcoal.
  4. Cooling: Once the charring process is complete, the fire is turned off and the woodpile is allowed to cool. The resulting charcoal is extracted from the accumulated.

In conclusion, the carbonization process of the chips consists of subjecting them to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to produce charcoal. The resulting product is used in a variety of applications, such as a flammable element, absorbent, and in the manufacture of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

vegetable residues

The use of organic waste It is common in the extraction of charcoal, which is produced from the partial combustion of wood or legume waste, in low oxygen conditions.

The heating of plant residues produces a solid and porous material which is used as a source of energy, with the production of fertilizers and for other purposes. Some of the vegetable residues that can be used in the manufacture of charcoal are described below:

  • Food waste: According to experts, charcoal has been successfully created from food waste, making it a carbon-neutral product that can be used as a source of energy and raw materials.
  • Wood: This is one of the most used in the manufacture of charcoal. According to, this is heated to temperatures ranging between 400 and 700 °C.
  • Coconut shells: it is obtained in a similar way to how it has been proposed, that is, after burning the vegetable matter.
  • Branches and forest residues: according to the remains of forestry and industrial wood, as well as the branches, which constitute about 30% of a tree, can be used in its production.

Although the charcoal produced is considered more sustainable, it is important to ensure that waste is collected responsibly and are not used as a fuel source while causing the deterioration of natural biodiversity.

Specific temperature and conditions

This is a material great importance in the industry and in energy production. To produce quality charcoal, specific temperature and process conditions are required.

The production technique is called carbonization and is carried out by cooking wood or other vegetable materials at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen.

For produce high-quality charcoal, kilns that can work at high temperatures are needed in order to extract the greatest possible amount of the non-carbonaceous components of the wood. Modern ovens can reach up to 700 degrees Celsius to achieve proper charring. At lower temperatures, only the separation of some small links that form gases and liquids occurs.

In addition to temperature, also it is important to control the duration of the process of carbonization. Insufficient cooking time can result in poor quality charcoal, while excessive cooking time results in insufficient production and increased energy consumption.

So, in order to produce high-quality charcoal, kilns are needed that work at high temperatures and for an adequate time to guarantee complete carbonization and the extraction of as many non-carbonaceous components as possible.

These conditions allow obtaining charcoal with a high purity, which makes it a valuable material for various industrial and energy applications.

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