Activated Carbon (AC) is a form of charcoal that has a large surface area, typically measuring 500 square metres per gram. Utilising novel technology, Carbonscape has now successfully begun production of high quality AC, with an average surface area of 800 square meters per gram from relatively cheap waste pine saw dust. This exciting development promises to replace traditionally slower and complex processes with a fast efficient process. Moreover, Carbonscape’s technology enables the use of relatively cheaper raw materials as well as ensuring a 60% improvement in surface area.
AC is widely used in industry as a molecular sieve. The current potential world market for this technology is vast with demand for granular and powdered carbon sitting at 550,000 tonnes/year with a total value of US$1.1 billion. Each year global demand for AC is rising by about 5%. With game changing Microwave technology, Carbonscape is in a prime position to exploit the current market and this continued growth.
There are different classifications of activated carbon with varying uses according to the form they assume.
- Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC) is used for purification, de-odourising and de-colouring of foods, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. PAC is also utilised in municipal waste water treatment.
- Similarly, Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) is employed in wastewater treatment for colour and odour removal, groundwater remediation, the removal of pesticides in drinking water and the purification of food, chemicals and beverages.
- Extruded Activated Carbon (EAC) is used for air purification, removal of halogens and solvents, air-conditioning, gas masks, for the control of carbon dioxide levels for fruit storage as well as the de-oiling of compressed gas.
Furthermore, activated carbon is applied in the process of gold purification, metal extraction, agricultural applications as well as cleansing of radioactively contaminated liquids and gases for the nuclear industry. The applications described here are not intended to be exhaustive but instead serve to highlight the numerous uses of activated carbon.
Significant Emerging Uses
A promising development in AC usage centres on its ability to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from large emitting sources such as power stations. These sources currently account for 60% of all carbon dioxide emissions thus providing a great platform to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By placing AC in the path of flue gases, carbon dioxide can be absorbed before it is released into the atmosphere.
Applications are not only limited to carbon dioxide removal. In the United States, there is anticipation that new federal environmental regulations will be passed in 2011 mandating the need for mercury removal at coal-fired power stations. AC demand in the United States is expected to increase as a result of this legislation. In fact, an upturn in demand has already been experienced as a direct result of certain states pre-empting and passing their own regulations.
Increased demand in China is expected to be fuelled by economic growth and the consequent rise in the uses for AC. China also relies on coal to supply the majority of its power stations which opens up the possibility of growth in AC demand should government regulations change to incorporate environmentally friendly policies.