Methods for preparation and activation of activated carbon: a review

Zoha Heidarinejad, Mohammad Hadi Dehghani, Mohsen Heidari, Gholamali Javedan, Imran Ali, Mika Sillanpää

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

650 Citations (Scopus)


Activated carbon refers to a wide range of carbonised materials of high degree of porosity and high surface area. Activated carbon has many applications in the environment and industry for the removal, retrieval, separation and modification of various compounds in liquid and gas phases. Selection of the chemical activator agent is a major step controlling the performance and applicability of activated carbon. Here, we review chemical activators used to produce activated carbon. We compare the impregnation method with the physical mixing method used in activating with alkali hydroxides. We selected 81 articles from Google Scholar, PubMed, Scopus, Science Direct, Embase and Medlin databases. Eighteen articles report the activation with potassium hydroxide, 17 with phosphoric acid, 15 with zinc chloride, 11 with potassium carbonate, nine with sodium hydroxide, and 11 with new activating agents. Activation with phosphoric acid is commonly used for lignocellulosic material and at lower temperatures. Zinc chloride generates more surface area than phosphoric acid but is used less due to environmental concerns. Potassium carbonate, in comparison with potassium hydroxide, produces higher yields and a higher surface area for the adsorption of large pollutant molecules such as dyes. Activating with potassium hydroxide in terms of surface area and efficiency shows better results than sodium hydroxide for various applications. Also, the comparison of the physical mixing method and the impregnation method in activation with alkali metals indicates that the activated carbon obtained through physical mixing had a higher porosity than the activated carbon produced by the impregnation method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-415
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Activated carbon
  • Adsorption
  • Chemical activation
  • Physical activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry


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