How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

May 18, 2023 | Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

How is Activated Charcoal made?

Activated charcoal, activated carbon, and active carbon are all terms that can be used interchangeably. Activated charcoal is made by burning carbon rich, natural materials such as wood, coconut shells, bamboo, coal, or olive pits in low oxygen concentrations. During this process, hydrogen is extracted, along with tar and methane, which reduces its weight and leaves a black mostly carbon substance. This remaining charcoal substance is then activated by mixing with certain chemical substances or steaming at very high temperatures to eliminate remaining non carbon elements. This leaves a final material that is extremely porous and binds together different elements.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

Activated charcoal binds to chemicals and toxins because the porosity of activated carbon allows for the adsorption of various substances. Activated carbon soaks up other elements like a sponge and can be made into various forms such as fabric or sponge material, a cube, pill, or powder.

With adsorption, ions, atoms or molecules from a liquid, gas, or dissolved solid are adhered to a surface. Activated charcoal works by collecting molecules that bind to the external surface, as opposed to adsorption in which elements permeate and are dissolved into a liquid or solid, the adsorbent. Activated carbon has a negative charge so that positive charged elements and toxins attach to it. Because activated charcoal binds to chemicals and toxins, it can be useful for various applications and processes.

Activated Carbon in Water Treatment 

According to an article in Science Daily, How US sewage plants can remove medicines from wastewater, activated carbon is an effective method of wastewater treatment to remove the concentration of pharmaceuticals “including certain antibiotics and antidepressants” by more than 95%. The article references a separate study in 2017 in which high concentrations of antidepressants were found in the brains of numerous fish in the Great Lakes region of the Niagara River.

Activated Charcoal in Pharmaceutical Disposal Systems 

Activated charcoal is an effective method of pharmaceutical waste disposal and is ideal for removing small, molecular organic compounds. Rx Destroyer utilizes activated carbon and solvent, which begins breaking down medications on contact. Activated carbon is a form of chemical destruction that is recognized in DEA regulations as an approved method of disposal. The best way to reduce the risk of drug diversion and environmental harm is to utilize a product with activated charcoal, like Rx Destroyer, to destroy controlled substances.

See our activated charcoal test data here.