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Charcoal is a lightweight black
carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a with the C and 6. It is lic and —making four s available to form s. It belongs to group 14 of the periodic table. Carbon makes up only about 0.025 percent of Earth's crust. Three occur naturally, ...

carbon
residue produced by strongly heating
wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. ...

wood
(or other
animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...

animal
and
plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, can later be released to fuel ...

plant
materials) in minimal oxygen to remove all water and volatile constituents. In the traditional version of this
pyrolysis The pyrolysis (or devolatilization) process is the of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere. It involves a change of . The word is coined from the -derived s ''pyro'' "fire" and ' "separating". Pyrolysis is most commonly us ...

pyrolysis
process, called
charcoal burning A charcoal burner is someone whose occupation is to manufacture charcoal. Traditionally this is achieved by carbonising wood in a charcoal pile or kiln. As an occupation it has almost died out in developed countries. Charcoal burning is one of ...

charcoal burning
, often by forming a
charcoal kiln A charcoal pile or charcoal clamp is a carefully arranged pile of wood, covered by turf or other layer, inside which a fire is lit in order to produce charcoal. The pile is tended by a charcoal burner. It is similar to a charcoal kiln, but the latte ...

charcoal kiln
, the heat is supplied by burning part of the starting material itself, with a limited supply of
oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same ...

oxygen
. The material can also be heated in a closed
retort In a chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo du ...

retort
. Modern "charcoal" briquettes used for outdoor cooking may contain many other additives, e.g.
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as stratum, rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other Chemical element, elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen ...

coal
. This process happens naturally when combustion is incomplete, and is sometimes used in
radiocarbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material Organic matter, organic material, or natural organic matter refers to the large source of ...
. It also happens inadvertently while burning wood, as in a
fireplace A fireplace or hearth A hearth is the place in a where a is or was traditionally kept for home heating and for , usually constituted by at least a horizontal hearthstone and often enclosed to varying degrees by any combination of , , , ...

fireplace
or
wood stove A wood-burning stove (or wood burner or log burner in the UK) is a heating or cooking appliance capable of burning wood fuel Pile of wood pellets Wood fuel (or fuelwood) is a fuel such as firewood, charcoal, Woodchips, chips, sheets, wood pel ...
. The visible flame in these is due to combustion of the volatile gases exuded as the wood turns into charcoal. The
soot Soot ( ) is a mass of impure Carbonaceous, carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. It is more properly restricted to the product of the gas-phase combustion process but is commonly extended to include the resi ...
and
smoke Smoke is a collection of airborne and es emitted when a material undergoes or , together with the quantity of air that is or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted of fires (including s, s, s, s, and s), but may als ...

smoke
commonly given off by wood fires result from incomplete combustion of those volatiles. Charcoal burns at a higher temperature than wood, with hardly a visible flame, and releases almost nothing except
heat In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these ...

heat
and
carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide (chemical formula A chemical formula is a way of presenting information about the chemical proportions of s that constitute a particular or molecule, using symbols, numbers, and sometimes also other symbols, such as pare ...

carbon dioxide
(One kilogram of charcoal contains 680 to 820 grams of carbon, which when combined with oxygen from the atmosphere form 2.5 to 3 kg of carbon dioxide).


History

The
production of wood charcoal
production of wood charcoal
in locations where there is an abundance of wood dates back to ancient times. It generally begins with piling billets of wood on their ends to form a conical pile. Openings are left at the bottom to admit
air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...

air
, with a central shaft serving as a
flue A flue is a duct, pipe Pipe(s) or PIPE(S) may refer to: Common uses * Pipe (fluid conveyance) Carbon Steel Pipe in a storage yard Plastic (PVC) pipes A pipe is a tubular section or hollow cylinder A cylinder (from ) has tradit ...
. The whole pile is covered with turf or moistened
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil Surface-water- gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland.">Northern_Ireland.html" ;"title="glacial till, Northern Ireland">glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic m ...

clay
. The firing is begun at the bottom of the flue, and gradually spreads outward and upward. The success of the operation depends upon the rate of the
combustion Combustion, or burning, is a high-temperature exothermic redox chemical reaction between a fuel (the reductant) and an oxidant, usually atmospheric oxygen, that produces oxidized, often gaseous products, in a mixture termed as smoke. Combustion ...
. Under average conditions wood yields about 60% charcoal by
volume Volume is a scalar quantity expressing the amount Quantity or amount is a property that can exist as a multitude Multitude is a term for a group of people who cannot be classed under any other distinct category, except for their shared fact ...

volume
, or 25% by
weight In science Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is a discovery as well as ...

weight
; small-scale production methods often yield only about 50% by volume, while large-scale methods enabled higher yields of about 90% by the 17th century. The operation is so delicate that it was generally left to colliers (professional charcoal burners). They often lived alone in small huts to tend their wood piles. For example, in the
Harz Mountains The Harz () is a highland area in northern Germany. It has the highest elevations for that region, and its rugged terrain extends across parts of Lower Saxony Lower Saxony (german: Niedersachsen ; nds, Neddersassen; stq, Läichsaksen) is ...
of
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
,
charcoal burner A charcoal burner is someone whose occupation is to manufacture charcoal or soil, and firing it (circa 1890) Charcoal is a lightweight black carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), ...
s lived in conical
huts A hut is a primitive dwelling, which may be constructed of various local materials. Huts are a type of vernacular architecture Stone and clay houses in rural Nepal Vernacular architecture is architecture characterised by the use of local ...
called ''
Köte A ''Köte'' (also ''Köthe'') is the term used in the Harz Mountains of central Germany for a charcoal burner's hut (''Köhlerhütte''). A ''Köte'' was occupied by a charcoal burner in order to look after a nearby wood pile (''Kohlenmeiler''). The ...
n'' which are extant today. The massive production of charcoal (at its height employing hundreds of thousands, mainly in Alpine and neighbouring forests) was a major cause of
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforestation
, especially in
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the continental landmass of with both ...

Central Europe
. In
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
, many woods were managed as
coppice Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum ''Plurale'' is an album by Italian singe ...

coppice
s, which were cut and regrown cyclically, so that a steady supply of charcoal was available. Complaints (as early as the
Stuart period The Stuart period of British history lasted from 1603 to 1714 during the dynasty of the House of Stuart The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingd ...
) about shortages may relate to the results of temporary
over-exploitation Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource File:Global Vegetation.jpg, Global vegetation A renewable resource, also known as a flow resource, is a natural resource which will replenish to replace the ...
or the impossibility of increasing production to match growing demand. The increasing scarcity of easily harvested wood was a major factor behind the switch to
fossil fuel A fossil fuel is a hydrocarbon In , a hydrocarbon is an consisting entirely of and . Hydrocarbons are examples of s. Hydrocarbons are generally colourless and hydrophobic with only weak odours. Because of their diverse molecular structure ...
equivalents, mainly
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as stratum, rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other Chemical element, elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen ...

coal
and
brown coal Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock Sedimentary rocks are types of Rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at ...

brown coal
for industrial use. The modern process of carbonizing wood, either in small pieces or as
sawdust Sawdust (or wood dust) is a by-product or waste product of woodworking Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees and other wo ...
in
cast iron Cast iron is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content more than 2%. Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature. The alloy constituents affect its colour when fractured: white cast iron has carbide impuritie ...
retort In a chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo du ...

retort
s, is extensively practiced where wood is scarce, and also for the recovery of valuable byproducts ( wood spirit,
pyroligneous acid Pyroligneous acid, also called wood vinegar or wood acid, is a dark liquid produced by the destructive distillation of wood and other plant materials. Composition The principal components of pyroligneous acid are acetic acid, acetone and methano ...
,
wood tar Tar is a dark brown or black viscous The viscosity of a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), ...

wood tar
), which the process permits. The question of the
temperature Temperature ( ) is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be seen on this hot metalwork. Thermal energy refers to several distinct physical concept ...

temperature
of the
carbonization Carbonization is the conversion of organic matters like plants and dead animal remains into carbon through destructive distillationDestructive distillation is a chemical process in which decomposition of unprocessed material is achieved by heatin ...
is important; according to J. Percy, wood becomes brown at , a deep brown-black after some time at , and an easily powdered mass at . Charcoal made at is brown, soft and friable, and readily inflames at ; made at higher temperatures it is hard and brittle, and does not fire until heated to about . In
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
and
Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sami Places * Sápmi, a cultural region in Northern Europe * Sami, Burkina Faso, a district of the Banwa Province * Sami District, Gambia * Sami, Cephalonia, a municipality in Greece * Sami (ancient city), in Elis, Greece * Sa ...

Scandinavia
, the charcoal was considered the by-product of
wood tar Tar is a dark brown or black viscous The viscosity of a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), ...

wood tar
production. The best tar came from
pine A pine is any conifer Conifers are a group of conifer cone, cone-bearing Spermatophyte, seed plants, a subset of gymnosperms. Scientifically, they make up the phylum, division Pinophyta (), also known as Coniferophyta () or Coniferae. The div ...

pine
, thus pinewoods were cut down for tar
pyrolysis The pyrolysis (or devolatilization) process is the of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere. It involves a change of . The word is coined from the -derived s ''pyro'' "fire" and ' "separating". Pyrolysis is most commonly us ...

pyrolysis
. The residual charcoal was widely used as substitute for
metallurgical Metallurgy is a domain of Materials science, materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic Chemical element, elements, their Inter-metallic alloy, inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which ...
coke in
blast furnace A blast furnace is a type of used for to produce industrial metals, generally , but also others such as or . ''Blast'' refers to the combustion air being "forced" or supplied above atmospheric pressure. In a blast furnace, fuel (), , and ( ...
s for
smelting Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including Silver mining#Ore processing, silver, iron-making, iron, copper ...
. Tar production led to rapid local
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforestation
. The end of tar production at the end of the 19th century resulted in rapid re-forestation of affected areas. The American form of the charcoal briquette was first invented and patented by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania in 1897 and was produced by the Zwoyer Fuel Company. The process was further popularized by
Henry Ford Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist A business magnate is someone who has achieved great success and enormous wealth through the ownership of multiple lines of enterprise. The term characteristicall ...

Henry Ford
, who used wood and sawdust byproducts from automobile fabrication as a
feedstock A raw material, also known as a feedstock, unprocessed material, or primary commodity, is a basic material that is used to produce goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in pa ...
. Ford Charcoal went on to become the Kingsford Company.


Production methods

Charcoal has been made by various methods. The traditional method in
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
used a clamp. This is essentially a pile of wooden logs (e.g. seasoned oak) leaning in a circle against a chimney. The chimney consists of 4 wooden stakes held up by some rope. The logs are completely covered with soil and straw allowing no air to enter. It must be lit by introducing some burning fuel into the chimney; the logs burn very slowly and transform into charcoal in a period of 5 days' burning. If the soil covering gets torn or cracked by the fire, additional soil is placed on the cracks. Once the burn is complete, the chimney is plugged to prevent air from entering. The true art of this production method is in managing the sufficient generation of heat, by combusting part of the wood material, and its transfer to wood parts in the process of being carbonised. A strong disadvantage of this production method is the huge amount of emissions that are harmful to human health and the environment (emissions of unburnt methane). As a result of the partial combustion of wood material, the efficiency of the traditional method is low. Modern methods employ retorting technology, in which process heat is recovered from, and solely provided by, the combustion of gas released during carbonisation. Yields of retorting are considerably higher than those of kilning, and may reach 35%-40%. The properties of the charcoal produced depend on the material charred. The charring temperature is also important. Charcoal contains varying amounts of hydrogen and oxygen as well as
ash Ash or ashes are the solid remnants of fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. Fire is hot because th ...

ash
and other impurities that, together with the structure, determine the properties. The approximate composition of charcoal for
gunpowder Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, carbon (in the form of charcoal) and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The ...
s is sometimes empirically described as C7H4O. To obtain a coal with high purity, source material should be free of non-volatile compounds. Wood charcoal is obtained as the residue by
destructive distillationDestructive distillation is a chemical process in which decomposition of unprocessed material is achieved by heating it to a high temperature; the term generally applies to processing of organic material in the absence of air or in the presence o ...
of wood such that the products are: * Liquid products –
pyroligneous acid Pyroligneous acid, also called wood vinegar or wood acid, is a dark liquid produced by the destructive distillation of wood and other plant materials. Composition The principal components of pyroligneous acid are acetic acid, acetone and methano ...
and
wood tar Tar is a dark brown or black viscous The viscosity of a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), ...

wood tar
* Gaseous products –
wood gas Wood gas is a syngas Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a fuel gas Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuels that under ordinary conditions are gaseous. Many fuel gases are composed of hydrocarbons (such as methane or propane), hydrogen ...
* Residual product – wood charcoal


Types

*Common charcoal is made from peat, coal, wood, coconut shell, or petroleum. *Sugar charcoal is obtained from the carbonization of sugar and is particularly pure. It is purified by boiling with acids to remove any mineral matter and is then burned for a long time in a current of chlorine to remove the last traces of hydrogen. It was used by
Henri Moissan Ferdinand Frédéric Henri Moissan (28 September 1852 – 20 February 1907) was a French chemist and pharmacist who won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry ) , image = Nobel Prize.png , alt = A golden medallion with an embossed i ...

Henri Moissan
in his early attempt to create
synthetic diamond Synthetic things are composed of multiple parts, often with the implication that they are artificial. In particular, 'synthetic' may refer to: Science * Synthetic chemical or compound, produced by the process of chemical synthesis As a topic ...

synthetic diamond
s. *
Activated charcoal "Activated" is a song by English singer Cher Lloyd Cher Lloyd (born 28 July 1993) is an English singer. She finished fourth place in the The X Factor (UK series 7), seventh series of ''The X Factor (UK TV series), The X Factor'' in 2010. ...

Activated charcoal
is similar to common charcoal but is manufactured especially for medical use. To produce activated charcoal, common charcoal is heated to about in the presence of a gas (usually steam), causing the charcoal to develop many internal spaces, or "pores", which help the activated charcoal to trap chemicals. Impurities on the surface of the charcoal are also removed during this process, greatly increasing its
adsorption Adsorption is the adhesion Adhesion is the tendency of dissimilar particles In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to whic ...

adsorption
capacity. *Lump charcoal is a traditional charcoal made directly from
hardwood is a popular hardwood Hardwood is wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic materiala natural composite material, composite of cellulos ...

hardwood
material. It usually produces far less ash than briquettes. *Japanese charcoal has had
pyroligneous acid Pyroligneous acid, also called wood vinegar or wood acid, is a dark liquid produced by the destructive distillation of wood and other plant materials. Composition The principal components of pyroligneous acid are acetic acid, acetone and methano ...
removed during the charcoal making; it therefore produces almost no smell or smoke when burned. The traditional charcoal of Japan is classified into three types: ** White charcoal ('' Binchōtan'') is very hard and produces a metallic sound when struck. ** ** Ogatan is a more recent type made from hardened sawdust. *Pillow shaped
briquette A briquette (; also spelled briquet) is a compressed block of coal dust or other combustible , Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_t ...

briquette
s are made by compressing charcoal, typically made from sawdust and other wood by-products, with a binder and other additives. The binder is usually
starch Starch or amylum is a polymeric A polymer (; Greek '' poly-'', "many" + '' -mer'', "part") is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance ...
. Briquettes may also include
brown coal Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock Sedimentary rocks are types of Rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at ...
(heat source), mineral carbon (heat source),
borax Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron chemical substance, compound, a mineral, and a salt (chemistry), salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless c ...

borax
,
sodium nitrate Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the chemical formula, formula . This alkali metal nitrate salt (chemistry), salt is also known as Chile saltpeter (large deposits of which were historically mined in Chile) to distinguish it from ord ...
(ignition aid),
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
(ash-whitening agent), raw
sawdust Sawdust (or wood dust) is a by-product or waste product of woodworking Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees and other wo ...
(ignition aid), and other additives. *Sawdust briquette charcoal is made by compressing sawdust without binders or additives. It is the preferred charcoal in Taiwan, Korea, Greece, and the Middle East. It has a round hole through the center, with a hexagonal intersection. It is used primarily for barbecue as it produces no odour, no smoke, little ash, high heat, and long burning hours (exceeding 4 hours). *Extruded charcoal is made by extruding either raw ground wood or carbonized wood into logs without the use of a binder. The heat and pressure of the extruding process hold the charcoal together. If the extrusion is made from raw wood material, the extruded are subsequently carbonized.


Uses

Charcoal has been used since earliest times for a large range of purposes including art and medicine, but by far its most important use has been as a
metallurgical Metallurgy is a domain of Materials science, materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic Chemical element, elements, their Inter-metallic alloy, inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which ...
fuel. Charcoal is the traditional fuel of a blacksmith's forge and other applications where an intense heat is required. Charcoal was also used historically as a source of black
pigment A pigment is a colored material that is completely or nearly insoluble in water. In contrast, dyes are typically soluble, at least at some stage in their use. Generally dyes are often organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compou ...
by grinding it up. In this form charcoal was important to early chemists and was a constituent of formulas for mixtures such as
black powder Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder Finnish smokeless powder Smokeless powder is a type of propellant used in firearms and artillery that produces less smoke and less fouling when fir ...
. Due to its high
surface area The surface area of a solid Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter 4 (four) is a number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of ...

surface area
charcoal can be used as a filter, and as a
catalyst Catalysis () is the process of increasing the rate of a chemical reaction A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the chemical transformation of one set of chemical substance A chemical substance is a form of matter In cla ...

catalyst
or as an adsorbent.


Metallurgical fuel

Charcoal burns at temperatures exceeding . By comparison the melting point of
iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

iron
is approximately . Due to its porosity, it is sensitive to the flow of air and the heat generated can be moderated by controlling the air flow to the fire. For this reason charcoal is still widely used by blacksmiths. Charcoal has been used for the production of iron since Roman times and
steel Steel is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appe ...

steel
in modern times where it also provided the necessary carbon. Charcoal briquettes can burn up to approximately with a forced air blower forge. In the 16th century, England had to pass laws to prevent the country from becoming completely denuded of trees due to production of iron. In the 19th century charcoal was largely replaced by coke in steel production due to cost.


Industrial fuel

Historically, charcoal was used in great quantities for smelting
iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

iron
in bloomeries and later
blast furnace A blast furnace is a type of used for to produce industrial metals, generally , but also others such as or . ''Blast'' refers to the combustion air being "forced" or supplied above atmospheric pressure. In a blast furnace, fuel (), , and ( ...
s and
finery forge A finery forge is a forge A forge is a type of hearth A hearth is the place in a home where a fire is or was traditionally kept for home heating and for cooking, usually constituted by at least a horizontal hearthstone and often encl ...
s. This use was replaced by coal in the 19th Century as part of the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
.


Cooking and heating fuel

Prior to the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
, charcoal was occasionally used as a
cooking Cooking, cookery, or culinary arts is the art, science, and craft of using heat In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy ...

cooking
fuel A fuel is any material that can be made to react with other substances so that it releases energy as thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be seen on this hot metalwork. Thermal energy refers to several distinct physical con ...

fuel
. It is counted as a
smokeless fuel Smokeless fuel is a type of solid fuel Solid fuel refers to various forms of solid Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being liquid, gas and plasma). The molecules in a solid are closely packed together an ...
; that is, the carbon is sufficiently pure that burning it causes substantially less air pollution than burning the original uncarbonized organic material would. In the 20th century, clean-air legislation mandated smokeless fuels (mostly coke or charcoal) in many areas of Europe. In the 21st century, charcoal has been advocated as a way to improve the health of people burning raw biomass for cooking and/or heating. Modern "charcoal"
briquette A briquette (; also spelled briquet) is a compressed block of coal dust or other combustible , Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_t ...

briquette
s, widely used for outdoor cooking, are made with charcoal but may also include coal as an energy source as well as accelerants, binders and filler. To contain the charcoal and use it for cooking purposes, a
barbecue grill grill A barbecue grill is a device that cooks food by applying heat from below. There are several varieties of grills, with most falling into one of three categories: natural gas, gas-fueled, charcoal, or electric. There is debate over which metho ...
may be used. A small Japanese charcoal grill is known as a ''
shichirin Egota)'' Image:Edo personal stove02.JPG, ''Shichirin'' stove at latter term of Edo perio(Fukagawa Edo Museum)] The ''shichirin'' (; , literally "seven wheels") is a small charcoal grill. Etymology ''Shichirin'' being a compound word made up o ...

shichirin
''. A
brazier A brazier () is a container used to burn charcoal or soil, and firing it (circa 1890) Charcoal is a lightweight black carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol C and atomic num ...
is a container used to burn charcoal or other solid fuel. To start the charcoal burning is harder than starting a wood fire and
charcoal lighter fluid Charcoal lighter fluid is a flammable fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), phase of matter and include ...
may be employed. A
chimney starter A chimney starter or charcoal chimney is a device for igniting charcoal lumps or briquettes. It consists of a metal tube with a grate to hold charcoal. A lighting cone is a similar, conical, device placed over an existing grate. The tube is typica ...
or electric charcoal starter are tools to help with starting to light charcoal. Approximately 75% of fuel burned in
Haiti Haiti (; ht, Ayiti ; french: Haïti ), officially the Republic of Haiti (; ), and formerly known as Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and J ...

Haiti
is charcoal.


Reducing agent

Certain types of charcoal, such as wood charcoal, are used for reducing heated metallic oxides to their respective metals: * ZnO + C → Zn + CO * Fe2O3 + 3C → 2Fe + 3CO Charcoal can also be used to reduce super heated steam to hydrogen (along with the formation of carbon monoxide): * C + H2O (1000 °C) → H2 + CO (
Water gas Water gas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen produced from Syngas, synthesis gas. Synthesis gas is a useful product, but requires careful handling due to its flammability and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The water-gas shift re ...
)


Syngas production, automotive fuel

Like many other sources of carbon, charcoal can be used for the production of various
syngas Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a fuel gas Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuels that under ordinary conditions are gaseous. Many fuel gases are composed of hydrocarbons (such as methane or propane), hydrogen Hydrogen is the chemica ...
compositions; i.e., various CO + H2 + CO2 + N2 mixtures. The syngas is typically used as fuel, including automotive propulsion, or as a chemical feedstock. In times of scarce petroleum, automobiles and even buses have been converted to burn
wood gas Wood gas is a syngas Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a fuel gas Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuels that under ordinary conditions are gaseous. Many fuel gases are composed of hydrocarbons (such as methane or propane), hydrogen ...
(a gas mixture consisting primarily of diluting
atmospheric An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a layer or a set of layers of gases surrounding a planet A planet is an astronomical body orbi ...
nitrogen Nitrogen is the chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science ...

nitrogen
, but also containing combustible gasses, mostly
carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide (chemical formula CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. It is the simplest molecule of the oxocarbon family. In ...

carbon monoxide
) released by burning charcoal or wood in a
wood gas generator A wood gas generator is a gasification unit which converts timber or charcoal into wood gas, a producer gas consisting of atmospheric nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, traces of methane, and other gases, which – after cooling and filtering ...
. In 1931 Tang Zhongming developed an automobile powered by charcoal, and these cars were popular in China until the 1950s and in
occupied France The Military Administration in France (german: Militärverwaltung in Frankreich; french: Occupation de la France par l'Allemagne) was an interim occupation authority established by Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist ...
during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
(called '' gazogènes'').


Pyrotechnics

Charcoal is used in the production of gunpowder, black powder, which is used extensively in the production of fireworks. It is usually ground into a fine powder, with airfloat grade being the finest particle size available commercially. When used in black powder compositions, it is often ball-milled with other ingredients so that they are intimately mixed together. Certain charcoals perform better when used to make black powder, these include spruce, willow, paulownia and grapevine among others. Charcoal produces fine dark orange/golden Spark (fire), sparks. Usually, powder with a mesh size from 10 to 325 is used to obtain showers of golden sparks in pyrotechnic compositions.


Cosmetic use of bamboo charcoal

Charcoal is also incorporated in multiple cosmetic products. It can be produced a.o. from regular bamboo cut into small pieces and boiled in water to remove soluble compounds. Raw bamboo charcoal is obtained after drying and carbonization in an oven at elevated temperature. The role of charcoal in cosmetics is based on its highly effective absorbing properties at a microscopic-scale.


Carbon source

Charcoal may be used as a source of carbon in chemical reactions. One example of this is the production of carbon disulphide through the reaction of sulfur vapors with hot charcoal. In that case the wood should be charred at high temperature to reduce the residual amounts of hydrogen and oxygen that lead to side reactions.


Purification and filtration

Charcoal may be ''activated'' to increase its effectiveness as a filter. Activated carbon, Activated charcoal readily Adsorption, adsorbs a wide range of organic compounds dissolved or suspended in gases and liquids. In certain industrial processes, such as the purification of sucrose from cane sugar, impurities cause an undesirable color, which can be removed with activated charcoal. It is also used to absorb odors and toxins in gases, such as air. Charcoal filters are also used in some types of gas masks. The medical use of activated charcoal is mainly the Absorption (chemistry), absorption of toxin, poisons. Activated charcoal is available without a prescription, so it is used for a variety of health-related applications. For example, it is often used to reduce discomfort and embarrassment due to excessive gas (flatulence) in the digestive tract. Animal charcoal or bone black is the carbonaceous residue (chemistry), residue obtained by the dry distillation of bones. It contains only about 10% carbon, the remaining being calcium and magnesium phosphates (80%) and other inorganic material originally present in the bones. It is generally manufactured from the residues obtained in the Animal glue, glue and gelatin industries. Its decolorizing power was applied in 1812 by Derosne to the clarification of the syrups obtained in sugar refining; but its use in this direction has now greatly diminished, owing to the introduction of more active and easily managed reagents. It is still used to some extent in laboratory practice. The decolorizing power is not permanent, becoming lost after using for some time; it may be revived, however, by washing and reheating. Wood charcoal removes some coloring material from solutions, but animal charcoal is generally more effective.


Art

Charcoal (art), Charcoal is used in art for drawing, making rough Sketch (drawing), sketches in painting and is one of the possible media for making a Surrealist techniques#Parsemage, parsemage. It must usually be preserved by the application of a Fixative (drawing), fixative. Artists generally utilize charcoal in three forms: * Vine charcoal is created by burning grape vines. * Willow charcoal is created by burning sticks. * Powdered charcoal is often used to "tone" or cover large sections of a drawing surface. Drawing over the toned areas darkens it further, but the artist can also lighten (or completely erase) within the toned area to create lighter tones. * Compressed charcoal charcoal powder mixed with gum Binder (material), binder compressed into round or square sticks. The amount of binder determines the hardness of the stick. Compressed charcoal is used in charcoal pencils.


Horticulture

One additional use of charcoal was rediscovered recently for horticulture. Although American gardeners have used charcoal for a short time, research on Terra preta soils in Amazonia has discovered the widespread use of charcoal produced by pyrolysis in the absence of oxygen, i. e. biochar, by pre-Columbian natives to ameliorate unproductive soil into soil that is rich in
carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a with the C and 6. It is lic and —making four s available to form s. It belongs to group 14 of the periodic table. Carbon makes up only about 0.025 percent of Earth's crust. Three occur naturally, ...

carbon
. The technique may find modern application, both to improve soils and as a means of carbon sequestration.


Animal husbandry

Charcoal is mixed with feed, added to poultry litter, litter, or used in the treatment of the manure. Poultry benefits from using charcoal in this manner. A concern that activated charcoal might be used unscrupulously to allow livestock to tolerate low quality feed contaminated with aflatoxins resulted in the Association of American Feed Control Officials banning it in 2012 from use in commercial livestock feeds.


Medicine

Charcoal was consumed in the past as dietary supplement for gastric problems in the form of charcoal biscuits. Now it can be consumed in tablet, capsule or powder form, for digestive effects. Research regarding its effectiveness is controversial. Charcoal has been used in combination with saccharin in research to measure Mucociliary clearance, mucociliary transport time. Charcoal has also been incorporated in toothpaste formulas; however, there is no evidence to determine its safety and effectiveness. Red colobus monkeys in Africa have been observed eating charcoal for the purposes of self-medication. Their leafy diets contain high levels of cyanide, which may lead to indigestion. So they learned to consume charcoal, which absorbs the cyanide and relieves indigestion. This knowledge about supplementing their diet is transmitted from mother to infant.


Environmental sustainability

Production and utilisation of charcoal, like any use of woody biomass as fuel, typically results in emissions and can contribute to deforestation. The use of charcoal as a
smelting Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including Silver mining#Ore processing, silver, iron-making, iron, copper ...
fuel has been experiencing a resurgence in South America resulting in severe environmental, social and medical problems. Charcoal production at a sub-industrial level is one of the causes of deforestation. Charcoal production is now usually illegal and nearly always unregulated as in Brazil where charcoal production is a large illegal industry for making pig iron. Massive forest destruction has been documented in areas such as Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is considered a primary threat to the survival of the mountain gorillas. Similar threats are found in Zambia. In Malawi, illegal charcoal trade employs 92,800 workers and is the main source of heat and cooking fuel for 90 percent of the nation's population. Some experts, such as Duncan MacQueen, Principal Researcher–Forest Team, International Institute for Environment and Development, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), argue that while illegal charcoal production causes deforestation, a regulated charcoal industry that required replanting and sustainable use of the forests "would give their people clean efficient energy – and their energy industries a strong competitive advantage". Recent assessments of charcoal imported to Europe have shown that many charcoal products are produced from tropical wood, often of undeclared origin. In an analysis of barbecue charcoal marketed in Germany, the World Wildlife Fund finds that most products contain tropical wood. As a notable exception, reference is made to barbecue charcoal imports from Namibia, where charcoal is typically produced from surplus biomass resulting from bush encroachment.


In popular culture

The last section of the film ''Le Quattro Volte'' (2010) gives a good and long, if poetic, documentation of the traditional method of making charcoal. The Arthur Ransome children's series ''Swallows and Amazons series, Swallows and Amazons'' (particularly the second book, ''Swallowdale'') features carefully drawn vignettes of the lives and the techniques of charcoal burners at the start of the 20th century, in the Lake District of the UK. Antonín Dvořák, Antonín Dvořák's opera ''King and Charcoal Burner'' is based on a Czech legend about a king who gets lost in a forest and is rescued by a charcoal burner.


See also

* Binchōtan * Biochar * Biomass briquettes * Charcoal in food * Charring, Char * Char cloth * Coke (fuel), made from coal rather than wood * Pyrolysis * Shichirin * Slash-and-char * Terra preta * Thomas Britton (1644 – 1714) small coal merchant of London, noted for his singing voice.. * Tortillon * Kingsford (charcoal), Kingsford * Wood gas


References


External links

* *
Simple technologies for charcoal makingCharcoal Making at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania - U.S. National Park Service
(YouTube video)
Illustrated how-toExperiments with varied techniques, illustrated"Charcoal - An Environmental Disaster"
a 2019 DW-TV, Deutsche Welle television program documenting the charcoal production industry in Africa and Europe and related industries, environmental consequences of the use and production of charcoal, and efforts toward sustainability; narrated in English {{Authority control Charcoal, Biologically-based therapies Fuels Allotropes of carbon Soil improvers Barbecue Pyrotechnic fuels Biofuels Solid fuels Articles containing video clips