Activated Carbon in Home and Room Air Purifiers

For many people, the first time they encounter activated carbon is during the process of selecting home air purifiers. Although most of our customers begin their search because of allergies or asthma, many soon learn how odors and chemicals can contribute to respiratory problems. To that end, many quality room air purifier systems offer a comprehensive solution that include activated carbon in order to these issues.


History and Use in Purification Processes

As many as 2000 years ago, human beings used activated carbon to remove impurities from water. Even then, its exceptional absorption qualities were known. However, it was not until the early 1900s that activated carbon was produced in powder form that could be sold commercially. At that time, it was used to purify water and to remove the color from sugar. As World War I progressed, it was discovered that activated carbon could be used in gas masks to protect soldiers, in addition to cleaning wartime water and in the manufacturing of air purifiers. It was during this period that granular activated carbon was developed.

Why Is It Called "Activated?"

What is the difference between carbon and “activated” carbon? The carbon used in air purifiers and water filters is actually put through a process of baking the carbon to dry it out. The heat used in the baking process drives out impurities, and causes the carbon to fracture at a microscopic level. This opens up a large surface area where impurities can be captured. After activated carbon has fully absorbed a large volume of impurities, it can actually be reactivated by heating it again. However, the reactivation process is impractical and dangerous. Non-activated carbon is soot or charcoal.

Activated carbon is described in a variety of ways, but generally the range includes amorphous carbon-based materials that exhibit a high degree of porosity and an extended surface area. This simply means that it has excellent absorbent characteristics that make it very useful for a wide variety of filtration processes, including air and water.

How Is Activated Carbon Used in Home Air Purifiers?

Carbon Can Be Used By Itself
In room air purifiers, the activated carbon is often combined with other minerals, like zeolite. Zeolite can absorb ions and molecules and thus act as a filter for odor control, toxin removal, and as a chemical sieve.

Carbon Can Be Treated to Target Specific Chemicals
While activated carbon can adsorb hundreds of different chemicals and odors, it cannot remove everything. Carbon is not especially great at removing some common chemicals such as formaldehyde, or hydrogen sulfide. In these situations, the carbon may be impregnated with potassium iodide or blended with active alumina to increase absorption qualities. This means that all of the tiny spaces and crevases within the carbon are holding an added chemical that now reacts with and neutralizes the airborne formaldehyde or hydrogen sulfide, rather than the carbon itself removing it.

As A Treatment for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
A small segment of allergy sufferers have what is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). This means that they have a very high sensitivity to any airborne chemicals in the air. Perfumes, cleaning chemicals, and even off-gassing from household building materials can cause severe irritation to someone with MCS.

For these sufferers, an air purifier with a high volume of activated carbon can be used to remove irritants from the environment can make the air much more breathable for all, especially asthma sufferers, babies, children, and the elderly.

The Best Carbon/Charcoal Air Purifiers

The type and amount of activated carbon and how it is used in home air purifiers depends on the brand and model. In addition, there are over two dozen different high performance activated carbon air purifiers from half a dozen different brands. The type of carbon purifier that you want is going to depend on the type of chemicals and irritants you need to remove.

See our best air purifiers for chemicals

See our best air purifiers for smoke

Call Us for Specific Solutions
For help determining exactly which unit and carbon blend is going to work best for your situation, give us a call or chat us during our Monday through Saturday business hours. We can walk you through the ins and outs of a number of different high performance carbon air purifiers.

Summary – Home Air Purifiers

Chemicals, smog, ozone, fumes from cooking, pet dander, and tobacco can cause irritation for allergenic and asthmatics. Particulates, such as pollens or pet dander, are the main irritants for many households. For those who need a comprehensive air purifier solution, higher caliber room air purifiers that offer outstanding particle, odor, and chemical removal are ideal.


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