Difference between Charcoal and Activated Charcoal

Difference between Charcoal and Activated Charcoal

Charcoal is an amorphous form of black carbon and is obtained as a residue when organic matter is heated in the absence of air. In contrast, activated charcoal, on the other side, is also a residue of burning materials that are rich in carbon at a high temperature. The two of them may seem the same, but they are very different from each other, and it is important to figure out their difference so that you will be able to use them properly.

Charcoal Vs. Activated Charcoal

The main difference between charcoal and activated charcoal would be that you get charcoal by burning organic matter without oxygen. On the other side, activated charcoal is something that you obtain by burning carbon-rich materials at higher temperatures than you would normally do for carbon and other substances.

Charcoal is something that you get when you heat the wood and other organic materials without oxygen at a very high temperature. It is not naturally occurring, which makes it a human-made product. Instead of burning, wood actually turns into charcoal when you use very high temperatures. Some of the by-products of making charcoal would be turpentine and tar.

On the other side, activated charcoal is made by heating charcoal or other carbon-rich materials in gas at high temperatures. When the charcoal powder is burned, additional substances are added, including chloride salts. It is used for a lot of different things, such as treatment for poisoning and even in modern skincare.

What is charcoal?

Charcoal is known as an odorless, tasteless, fine black powder or black solid that is consisted of carbon. It is a product or a residue of burning a carbon-rich material or wood in the absence of oxygen. It is not naturally occurring, which means that it is a man-made product. Even if charcoal happens to be found in a forest or in nature, it is not naturally made but was rather produced in things like forest fires.

Charcoal has structural properties that add to its benefits like its porous structure, its composition, how it is brittle in nature, has a low density, and being a bad conductor of heat and electricity. Its chemical composition easily helps in making it very useful in a lot of different everyday products like tooth whitening products, water filtration, treatment of diarrhea as well as other cooking product. The ashes of charcoal are even used in gardening and skincare. Should the ashes not have any toxins, it is often used as a fertilizer.

There are five different types of charcoal, and they are lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes, binchotan, hardwood briquettes, and coconut shell charcoal. It is obtained from the burning of wood, bones, cellulose, and charcoal is also known to be amorphous.

What is activated charcoal?

On the other side, activated charcoal is obtained through the burning of carbon-rich materials like sawdust, peat, wood, coconut, and even charcoal at high temperatures. It is burned with additional substances such as salt and h2 acids and bases.

The extremely high temperature that it is burned in forces the molecules and the ions that are inside the substance to be tightly bound to each other. This is the process of activation where the charcoal loses all of the molecules that it had absorbed before. Activated charcoal is known to be a better choice than regular charcoal because it has great absorbing capabilities and better pore size distribution.

Standard charcoal is bound by different chemical substances, and thus it has a smaller surface area, while activated charcoal is said to be more porous and has a larger surface area. There are a lot of uses of activated charcoal, and scientists have found a lot of things where the properties of activated carbons such as high porosity can be useful, like being used in skincare products, making of deodorants, water filtration, as medicine for intestinal gas and a whole lot more.

Difference between Charcoal and Activated Charcoal

  • Charcoal is produced by the partial burning of wood and other substance with carbon without the presence of oxygen, while activated charcoal is done by burning carbon in the presence of gas along with mixing it together with substances such as salts, bases, and acids.
  • Charcoal is burned at a lower temperature than activated carbon. This is because activated has other substances added to it, which is the reason why it needs a higher amount of heat.
  • Charcoal is less porous and has a lower surface area than activated charcoal.
  • Charcoal is used in medicine and in cooking products, while activated charcoal is used in deodorants, filtration of water, and skincare products.


While charcoal and activated charcoal look like the same thing, they are actually very different. Charcoal is obtained in ways that are different from how activated charcoal is obtained, with the key difference being the presence or absence of oxygen. Activated charcoal is made with the use of other substances such as salts, acids, and bases, while charcoal is made from carbon-rich substances alone.

Leave a Comment