Activated carbon is a group of porous carbons produced through charring carbonaceous elements filled with dehydrating chemicals. It can also be described as purified charcoal powder. Other names for this type of carbon include active coal, activated charcoal, and active carbon. Its adsorption qualities make it the best for water purification processes.

This is because of how it can remove a wide range of contaminants in water. It can also be used to get rid of odors. Different uses for this type of carbon include municipal water treatment, sewerage treatment, industrial applications, and treating drinking water.

Activated carbon is of specific types meant for several purification needs. Granular activated carbon, powdered activated carbon, and pellets activated carbon are some of the common types. Granular activated carbon and powdered activated carbon are the best for water purification needs. The kind you choose largely depends on your purification needs. Today we are going to compare granular and powdered activated carbon.

Granular Activated Carbon

Granular activated carbon is commonly referred to as GAC. It is made from organic materials heated without the presence of air. This material is taken through another process where it is crushed into smaller particles. The tiny particles are in solid form, and this explains why it is referred to as granular. Several organic materials are normally used during this procedure. Common types include coal or coconut shell.

The highly absorbent qualities of granular activated charcoal make it the best for purifying extremely contaminated liquids. This type of active carbon is the best for use in large treatment facilities. It is also ideal for mercury removal and different solvent recovery procedures.

Powdered Activated Carbon

Commonly referred to as PAC, it is another type of active carbon that is made of fine particles. Just like GAC, it is also produced using organic matter with high levels of carbon. Examples of these natural materials include wood and lignite.

Powdered activated carbon is commonly used in water treatment facilities to get rid of a wide range of impurities. It can also be used to regulate odor and taste in water. The adsorption quality of powdered active carbon helps in the removal of contaminants in water, air, and various types of gases.


There are several differences between these two types of activated carbon. They include:

Grain Size

It is a visible difference you will notice in the two carbon types. Granular active charcoal has large size particles compared to the powdered type. GAC ranges from 0.2 to 5mm, while PAC is about 0.188mm or less.

Granular active charcoal is in solid form while PAC is in powder form, as the name suggests. This makes it easy to tell which one has a larger grain size compared to the other. It is an apparent difference you should note between the two. Granular active coal also has a small surface area compared to the powdered type.


Differences between the two types of active carbons come in their applications. Granular activated carbon is mostly used for water purification purposes. It is different in powdered active carbon that is used for food decolorization.

The larger surface area in powdered active coal makes it the best for the adsorption of impurities that have a bigger molecular size. Color in food and is of a large molecular size. Powdered active coal is ideal for their removal. It is different in the granular type, which is suitable for water filtration. This is because it does not break in high pressure or flow of water.

Materials Used

The other difference between the two types of active carbon comes in the materials used in making them. Both are made from different organic materials. Powdered active carbon is made from wood, while the granular type is from coconut shell or coal. These materials play an essential role in their application and effectiveness levels.


You will also notice a big difference between granular activated charcoals and powdered activated carbon in their regeneration and disposal methods. Granular active carbon can be used several times before going through the regeneration process. It is different in powdered active carbon. Regenerating, it is quite difficult. If there is a possibility of doing so, then it might prove to be a very challenging procedure. You are also going to incur high disposal fees.

Equipment Type

The type of carbon you choose may depend on the equipment and handling needed. GAC can be used on specific machines, while PAC can be used in other types. Granular active carbon is ideal for equipment that does not require high filtration pressure. The dusting risk of powered active charcoal limits its use to a specific machine. Dust collectors are the best to use for procedures that involve powdered active coal.

Methods of Use

Granular activated carbon is mostly used in continuous processes. It is different in powdered active coal, which is mainly used in batch processes. After a purification procedure, PAC is usually discarded. Granular active carbon is the best for continuous processes because of the ability to regenerate it.

Manufacturing Costs

It is another primary difference between the two types of active carbon. The production of powdered activated carbon is less costly because factors like strength and the size of particles are not a big deal. Density is also not a big deal for most companies that intend to use PAC. Granular active charcoal, on the other hand, has to meet certain specifications for its use. The granules should be of a standard size, and it should also be of the right density. This explains why the production costs of granular activated charcoal are much higher compared to PAC.

Understanding these differences can guide you when making your purchase or picking the right one for a specific application. You will be in the know of different qualities in each of them and choose the right type for your purification needs.

Choosing the Right Activated Carbon

Both granular and powdered active carbon have their set of advantages and disadvantages. Powdered active coal is widely used because of its affordable costs. You can also adjust the dosage of PAC you use to match the changing levels of contamination.

What you have to understand is that powdered active coal has higher operational costs when used more often. Other downsides include the production of huge amounts of sludge, inability to regenerate it, and how it can easily pass through filters. PAC can force its way through filters quickly, and this will result in complaints by most customers. The dust coming from the tiny particles of powdered active carbon make it difficult to handle it. The particles are also highly flammable.

Granular active coal is a cost-friendly option for those who are using large treatment plants that require continuous control of taste and odor.

The downside of the granular type of active carbon is the increased purchasing costs of the contactor and filter. The chances of bacteria growing on a GAC filter are also much higher. Granular activated charcoal stands out as an ideal option for long-term service. You have to factor in the results you need from these procedures to pick the right type of active carbon.

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