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Impure form of carbon, obtained as a residue when material containing carbon is partially burned or heated with limited access to air. Coke, carbon black, and soot are forms of charcoal; other forms are named for their source material, such as wood, blood, or bone. Largely replaced by coke in blast furnaces and by natural gas as a raw material, charcoal is still used to make black gunpowder and in case-hardening metals. Activated charcoal is a finely powdered or highly porous form whose surface area is hundreds or thousands of square meters per gram. It has many uses as an adsorbent (seeadsorption), including for poison treatment, and as a catalyst or catalyst carrier.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on charcoal, visit Britannica.com.