Filtering Charcoal


Charcoal is carbon.  Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. 

The use of special manufacturing techniques results in highly porous charcoals that have surface areas of 300-2,000 square metres per gram. These so-called active, or activated, charcoals are widely used to adsorb odorous or coloured substances from gases or liquids.­

Activated charcoal is good at trapping other carbon-based impurities ("organic" chemicals), as well as things like chlorine. Many other chemicals are not attracted to carbon at all -- sodium, nitrates, etc. -- so they pass right through. This means that an activated charcoal filter will remove certain impurities while ignoring others. It also means that, once all of the bonding sites are filled, an activated charcoal filter stops working. At that point you must replace the filter.


Combined with biological and mechanical filtration, activated carbon is very effective at filtering the water. This soft to semi-hard black gravel-like media is made from carbon materials. Activated carbon is not really burned like wood; rather, it is activated by steam and microwave.

This makes activated carbon more effective in trapping any unwanted substances. Many carbons are also treated with acids to open up their pore structures more and lower their ash content. The pores of activated carbon provide excellent chemical adsorption.


The good news is activated carbon removes dissolved organic compounds pretty quickly. It removes two major categories of dissolved organic compounds: tannins and phenols. Tannins refer to substances promoting tanning or coloration. Activated carbon removes color from water. Phenols are nasty stuff. They are caustic compounds, capable of corroding or eating things away. Activated carbon removes these acids.


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