Activated Carbon Filters: What They Are & How They Work

If you use an air purification system, or are shopping for one, you may be familiar with activated carbon filters. With so many air purifier filters to choose from, you may wonder how an activated carbon filter works or what the benefits of using one are. Don’t let their small stature fool you; these clever filters are major combaters of everything from allergens and harsh pollutants to unpleasant tastes and odors. They rely on the process of adsorption to remove and capture impurities, so that all you’re left with is fresh, breathable air.

Here is a closer look at how these small filters can make a big improvement in your overall air quality.

What is an Activated Carbon Filter?

Activated carbon filters are small pieces of carbon, typically in granular or powdered block form, that have been treated to be extremely porous. It is so cavernous, in fact, that just one gram of activated carbon can easily have a surface area of 500m2 or higher. Vast surface area enables these carbon filters to adsorb exponentially more contaminants and allergens than traditional carbon.

Adsorption is a distinct process where organic compounds in the air or water react chemically with the activated carbon, which causes them to stick to the filter. The more porous the activated carbon is, the more contaminants it will capture. These filters are most notably used to remove hazardous compounds in home air purification systems.

How Would I Benefit From an Activated Carbon Filter?

There are many benefits associated with using activated carbon filters. These purifiers can be used to rid your air of unwanted or harmful contaminants that can pose a hazard to your health.

In air purification systems, activated carbon filters can be used in conjunction with HEPA filters to trap known allergens and impurities like:

Carbon filters also help eliminate unpleasant odors so your indoor air remains fresh. Used together, activated carbon and HEPA filters can trap 99.97% of small particles 0.3 microns and higher as well as most larger particles, especially spores. Activated carbon filters can particularly benefit people who suffer allergies or aggravation from impure air, including second hand smoke. If you are or live with a smoker, using an activated carbon filter in your home air purification system can provide unparalleled benefits to your respiratory health.

How do Activated Carbon Filters Work?

Although a filtration system that uses chemical reactions to decontaminate air may sound complicated, it is actually rather simple. Activated carbon is typically sold in thick or thin packets for air filtration. It is then inserted into the main purifying device, such as an air purifier or HEPA air filter.

Contaminated air enters the filtration system, passes through the active carbon, undergoes adsorption, and leaves the filter purified. If used in conjunction with a HEPA filter, the activated carbon works to prevent larger particles like dust and lint from reaching it, enabling the HEPA filter to perform better and last longer.

Are all Activated Carbon Filters the Same?

All activated carbon filters remove a significantly higher amount of air pollutants than regular carbon filters, however there are some distinctions. Some filters contain more activated carbon than others, and this can affect the capacity for impurity removal. The more activated carbon in a filter, the more contaminants it will catch and the faster it will adsorb.

Additionally, high levels of activated carbon increase a filter’s lifetime. It will require fewer replacements and keep emitting fresh air longer. Another factor that influences filtering rate is the size of activated carbon particles.

Typically, smaller particles yield faster adsorption rates. The most advanced activated carbon filters, like those found in Blueair air purifiers, are infused with other compounds like magnesium dioxide and copper oxide to remove even more hazardous pollutants from the air, such as carbon monoxide, ethylene oxide, and ozone. Some modern activated carbon filters are also more adept at preventing a buildup of bacteria that can occur naturally over time.

Activated carbon filters are an important addition to any air purification system. They can be used alone or in conjunction with other filters to significantly reduce the amount of impurities in your home or office. Whether you choose a basic or advanced model, you can breathe easy using an activated carbon filter.

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About Author

Sarah is a savvy urbanite with small town roots. As a foodie, wine lover & adventurer, she loves the bustling city and the great outdoors equally. Her motto is that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, convenience, or fresh air for small-scale urban living.

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