Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, Vol.42, No.8, 1619-1640, 2003
The art, science, and technology of charcoal production
In this review, we summarize the knowledge of the production and properties of charcoal that has been accumulated over the past 38 millenia. The manipulation of pressure, moisture content, and gas flow enables biomass carbonization with fixed-carbon yields that approach-or attain the theoretical limit after reaction times of a few tens of minutes. Much of the heat needed to carbonize the feed is released by vigorous, exothermic secondary reactions that reduce the formation of unwanted tars by augmenting the charcoal yield in a well-designed carbonizer. As a renewable fuel, charcoal has many attractive features: it contains virtually no sulfur or mercury and is low in nitrogen and ash; it is highly reactive yet easy to store and handle. Carbonized charcoal can be a good adsorbent with a large surface area and a semimetal with an electrical resistivity comparable to that of graphite. Recent advances in knowledge about the production and properties of charcoal presage its expanded use as a renewable fuel, reductant, adsorbent, and soil amendment.