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Related to charcoal: activated charcoal


substance obtained by partial burning or carbonization (destructive distillationdistillation,
process used to separate the substances composing a mixture. It involves a change of state, as of liquid to gas, and subsequent condensation. The process was probably first used in the production of intoxicating beverages.
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) of organic material. It is largely pure carboncarbon
[Lat.,=charcoal], nonmetallic chemical element; symbol C; at. no. 6; interval in which at. wt. ranges 12.0096–12.0116; m.p. about 3,550°C;; graphite sublimes about 3,375°C;; b.p. 4,827°C;; sp. gr. 1.8–2.1 (amorphous), 1.9–2.3 (graphite), 3.
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. The entry of air during the carbonization process is controlled so that the organic material does not turn to ash, as in a conventional fire, but decomposes to form charcoal.

The most common variety of charcoal, wood charcoal, was formerly prepared by piling wood into stacks, covering it with earth or turf, and setting it on fire. In this process volatile compounds in the wood (e.g., water) pass off as vapors into the air, some of the carbon is consumed as fuel, and the rest of the carbon is converted into charcoal. In the modern method, wood is raised to a high temperature in an iron retort, and industrially important byproducts, e.g., methanolmethanol,
 methyl alcohol,
or wood alcohol,
CH3OH, a colorless, flammable liquid that is miscible with water in all proportions. Methanol is a monohydric alcohol. It melts at −97.8°C; and boils at 67°C;.
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 (wood alcohol or wood spirit), acetoneacetone
, dimethyl ketone
, or 2-propanone
, CH3COCH3, colorless, flammable liquid. Acetone melts at −94.8°C; and boils at 56.2°C;. It is the simplest aliphatic ketone.
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, pyroligneous acidpyroligneous acid
, a dark liquid that is essentially a mixture of acetic acid and methanol (wood alcohol) and is obtained in the destructive distillation of wood. It once served as a commercial source of acetic acid.
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, and acetic acidacetic acid
, CH3CO2H, colorless liquid that has a characteristic pungent odor, boils at 118°C;, and is miscible with water in all proportions; it is a weak organic carboxylic acid (see carboxyl group). Glacial acetic acid is concentrated, 99.
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, are saved by condensing them to their liquid form. Air is not really needed in the carbonization process, and advanced methods of charcoal production do not allow air to enter the kiln. This results in a higher yield, since no wood is burned with the air, and quality is improved. Charcoal is also obtained from substances other than wood such as nut shells and bark; that obtained from bones is called bone black, animal black, or animal charcoal.

Charcoal yields a larger amount of heat in proportion to its volume than is obtained from a corresponding quantity of wood and has the further advantage of being smokeless. The greatest amount is used as a fuel. Charcoal is often used in blacksmithing, for cooking, and for other industrial applications. One of the most important applications of wood charcoal is as a component of gunpowdergunpowder,
explosive mixture; its most common formula, called "black powder," is a combination of saltpeter, sulfur, and carbon in the form of charcoal. Historically, the relative amounts of the components have varied.
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. It is also used as a reducing agent in metallurgical operations, but this application was diminished by the introduction of cokecoke,
substance obtained by the destructive distillation of bituminous coal. Coke bears the same relation to coal as does charcoal to wood. A hard, gray, massive, porous fuel, coke is the solid residue remaining after bituminous coal is heated to a high temperature out of
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. A limited quantity is made up into the form of drawing crayon. Bamboo charcoal is the principal ingredient in sumi-e, a form of Japanese ink painting that uses only black ink in various concentrations.

Because of its porous structure, finely divided charcoal is a highly efficient agent for filtering the adsorption of gases and of solids from solution. It is used in sugar refining, in water purification, in the purification of factory air, and in gas masks. Wood charcoal can remove coloring agents from solutions, but this is accomplished more efficiently by animal charcoal. By special heating or chemical processes the adsorptive property can be greatly increased; charcoal so treated is known as activated charcoal.



a drawing material made from charred wood, mainly twigs or sticks of linden, willow, and other trees. Hard pressed charcoal, made from charcoal powder with an added gum, became popular in the 19th century. Charcoal is widely used for finished drawings and preliminary sketches. It is valued because its stroke has a velvety texture and because it combines lines and tonal effects.


Also known as char.
A porous solid product containing 85-98% carbon and produced by heating carbonaceous materials such as cellulose, wood, or peat at 500-600°C in the absence of air.
The residue obtained from the carbonization of a noncoking coal, such as subbituminous coal, lignite, or anthracite.


1. a black amorphous form of carbon made by heating wood or other organic matter in the absence of air: used as a fuel, in smelting metal ores, in explosives, and as an absorbent
2. a stick or pencil of this for drawing
3. a drawing done in charcoal
References in classic literature ?
he screamed, tearing it off, and throwing it into the charcoal.
Well, as it turned out, this charcoal burner was just the twin of the Southern "poor white" of the far future.
If he lives South of Freeze-your-Bones -- which is where we are going to next -- we light the fire in the grate and the charcoal in the pan.
He was from beyond the sea, a Doctor Cacaphodel, who had wilted and dried himself into a mummy by continually stooping over charcoal furnaces, and inhaling unwholesome fumes during his researches in chemistry and alchemy.
I now thought it possible that the coating of dirt might have something to do with the failure; so I carefully rinsed the parchment by pouring warm water over it, and, having done this, I placed it in a tin pan, with the skull downwards, and put the pan upon a furnace of lighted charcoal.
The doors had been burnt, some on the spot, and the charcoal of them was still jagged with the action of the fire, which had gone out of itself, powerless, no doubt, to get to the heart of those massive joints of oak fastened together with iron nails.
The evening patrol hurried out of the police-station with important coughings and reiterated orders; and a live charcoal ball in the cup of a wayside carter's hookah glowed red while Kim's eye mechanically watched the last flicker of the sun on the brass tweezers.
Gliddon, at one period, for example, could not make the Egyptian comprehend the term "politics," until he sketched upon the wall, with a bit of charcoal a little carbuncle-nosed gentleman, out at elbows, standing upon a stump, with his left leg drawn back, right arm thrown forward, with his fist shut, the eyes rolled up toward Heaven, and the mouth open at an angle of ninety degrees.
At the farther end was a small brazier of burning charcoal, beside which on a three-legged wooden stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw resting upon his two fists, and his elbows upon his knees, staring into the fire.
They were neatly done in charcoal upon the white surface, and looked to me at first sight like some sort of rough musical score.
The scattered trees outlined themselves more and more out of the vapour, as if they were first drawn in grey chalk and then in charcoal.
He was a long, offensive, patronizing person, with a moustache that looked like a smear of charcoal, and a habit of addressing her as 'Ah, little one