Activated charcoal has been used extensively for centuries. While we could easily produce a book on the use of activated charcoal over time, we are positive that this would bore you. Instead, we wish to give you a quick rundown of some ‘key points’ in the history of activated charcoal.
The story begins in Ancient Egypt. Back then, the Egyptians were using charcoal to build fires. They regularly used the fires to smelt ore as the charcoal fire burned hotter than wood. At some point, they discovered that items which had been scorched by the fire did not rot, even when they were buried along the wet banks of the River Nile. They started to preserve the wood they had by scorching it with the activated charcoal. This continued for centuries. They didn’t know why it worked, it just did.
Evidence from Ancient Egypt suggests that the Egyptians were regularly using activated charcoal to deal with certain medical issues. In most cases, the activated charcoal was to remove the odour from wounds.
Now, let’s skip ahead to 450 B.C. Archeological evidence suggests that many of the Phoenician trading ships from around this time had a tar put on them. This helped to protect the wood when the boat was in the water. Basically, this was an extension of the process that the Ancient Egyptians were using.
Around this time, the Phoenician people worked out that the tar that they were using could also help to preserve water during the longer sea voyages. They lined their barrels with the stuff. Even today, we still use similar processes to what they used back then. We know that activated charcoal can pull impurities out of the water that we consume. Most of the water filters that you purchase are made from activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal then seemed to disappear off the map for over 1,000 years. It is likely that this was down to the Romans trying to suppress science, something which continued right the way through to the dark ages. In the 1700s, medical practitioners started to use activated charcoal again. Once again, it was used to remove odors from certain wounds.
It was not until the 1800s when activated charcoal was again used extensively for medical applications. The military often used it to treat battle wounds. Back then, it was used to take toxins out of open wounds, or at least protect them. It was around this time that we started to get the first written recordings of activated charcoal being used for dealing with poison.
20th and 21st Century
Nowadays, you will find that activated charcoal is used for a variety of different purposes. It is used frequently in industry, as well as used to deal with all sorts of medical ailments. The way in which we use activated charcoal today builds upon the information we have gathered from the past, and the knowledge we gain today will surely create many more uses of activated charcoal in the future!