The use of carbon extends so far back into history that its origin is impossible to document.
Charcoal was used fordrinking water filtrationby ancient Hindus inIndia, and carbonized wood
was used as amedical adsorbentand purifying agent by the Egyptians as early as 1500 B.C.
Similar uses throughout history have been reported by a variety of authors.
Modern development and use has been documented more precisely.Activated carbonwas first
generated industrially at the first part of the 20th century, when carbon activated from
vegetable material was produced for use insugar refining.
Powderedactivate carbonwas first produced commercially in Europein the early 19thcentury,
using wood as a raw material. This carbon found widespread use in the sugar industry. In
the United States, the first production of activated carbon used black ash as the source,
after it was accidentally discovered that the ash was very effective indecolorizing liquids.
Activated carbon has since been used extensively for this purpose in many industries. In
particular,it has been commonly used for the removal of organic dyes from textile wastewaters.
The first documented use ofactivate carbonin a large scale water treatment application was in
19th-centuryEngland, where it was used to remove undesirable odors and tastes from drinking
water. Use in theUnited Statesfor similar purposes closely followed. In recent years, the
use of activated carbon for the removal of priority organic pollutants has become very common.
Today, hundreds of brands of activated carbon are manufactured for a large variety of purposes.
The largest market foractivated carbonis currently in the municipal water purification industry,
where charcoal beds have been used for the dual purpose of physical filtration and sorption. In
fact, activated carbon filters are used today in drinking water treatment to remove the natural
organic compounds (i.e.tannins) that produce carcinogenic chlorinated by-products during chlorine
disinfection of water. In wastewater treatment, activated carbon is usually used as a filter
medium intertiary treatmentprocesses. In these applications, carbon filters are usually quite
effective in removing low concentrations of organic compounds, as well as some inorganic metals.
In addition to its drinking water and wastewater treatment applications,activated carbonis used
today for many other purposes. Some other common uses are listed here: corn and cane sugar
refining,gas adsorption,dry cleaning recoveryprocesses,pharmaceuticals, fat and oil removal,
electroplating, alcoholic beverage production.