Activated Charcoal...What is it?

Phil Robinson phrobins at
Wed Apr 8 03:34:12 EST 1998

Activated charcoal is made from material burnt in a super heated high oxygen
atmosphere creating small holes between the range of 100 - 800 angstrom in
diameter throughout the grain of charcoal. This effectively increases the
charcoal's surface area so that the surface area of one gram of charcoal is
approximately 1000 sqm.
Activated charcoal was first used in people in the 19th Century in France.
Activated charcoal is used for lots of  different poisonings or drug overdoses
in people (including a friend of mine, looks disgusting). By supplying a large
area of carbon surrounding the drug the side chains are attracted to the
carbon and the drug binds at a number of sites, effectively sticking to the
Our bottle from Sigma is well over 12 years old, and is still used here every
day for a similar assay to yours.  Still works fine.  We just make a
suspension in our buffer (dilute acid in our case), keep it stirring while in
use (settles pretty quickly) and get on with it...

Phil R,      Sydney

David Ackerley wrote:

> Hi there
> I'm presently preparing an ATP/PPi exchange assay, in which a crucial step
> is the binding of ATP by activated charcoal. In our lab we have a little
> jar labelled "activated charcoal" - however, no one seems sure how to use
> it. Does it require any preparation before being chucked into my reaction
> vessel? And, does it go off? (this is a pretty old jar by the looks of it)
> I would be very grateful for any answers to these questions. TIA, Dave

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