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Carbon filtering is a method of filtering that uses a bed of activated carbon to remove contaminants and impurities, using chemical adsorption.

Each particle, or granule, of carbon provides a large surface area, or pore structure, allowing contaminants the maximum possible exposure to the active sites within the filter media. One gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 3,000 m2 (32,000 sq ft).

Activated carbon works via a process called adsorption, whereby pollutant molecules in the fluid to be treated are trapped inside the pore structure of the carbon substrate. Carbon filtering is commonly used for water purification, air filtering and industrial gas processing, for example the removal of siloxanes and hydrogen sulfide from biogas. It is also used in a number of other applications, including respirator masks, the purification of sugarcane and in the recovery of precious metals, especially gold. It is also used in cigarette filters and in the EVAP used in cars.

Active charcoal carbon filters are most effective at removing chlorine, particles such as sediment, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), taste and odor from water. They are not effective at removing minerals, salts, and dissolved inorganic substances.

Typical particle sizes that can be removed by carbon filters range from 0.5 to 50 micrometres. The particle size will be used as part of the filter description. The efficacy of a carbon filter is also based upon the flow rate regulation. When the water is allowed to flow through the filter at a slower rate, the contaminants are exposed to the filter media for a longer amount of time.

Hydrogen productionEdit

For small-scale production of hydrogen, water purifiers are installed to prevent formation of minerals on the surface of the electrodes and to remove organics and chlorine from utility water. First the water passes through a 20-micrometer interference (mesh or screen filter) filter to remove sand and dust particles, then a charcoal filter (activated carbon) to remove organics and chlorine, and finally, a de-ionizing filter to remove metallic ions.[citation needed] A test can be done before and after the filter for proper functioning on barium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and silicon.

See alsoEdit


  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C. (2013). "Granular Activated Carbon." Drinking Water Treatability Database.
  • "A Citizen's Guide to Activated Carbon Treatment. Document no. EPA 542-F-01-020" (PDF). EPA. 2001.
  • "Residential Air Cleaners: A Summary of Available Information. 2nd edition. Document no. EPA 402-F-09-002" (PDF). EPA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-01.