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Activated carbon has an almost unbelievable surface area. Just one teaspoon (5 ml) of activated carbon has a surface area of between 1 and 2 hectares (10,000 m² – 20,000 m²).
Adsorbance (as opposed to absorbance) is the measure of how much microscopic matter can stick to a surface. As you can imagine, a substance with a super-high surface area can have a lot of stuff stick to it. The superior adsorbance of Activated Charcoal is responsible for its detoxifying and cleansing properties.
The activation stage of activated carbon involves very high temperatures without burning (oxidising) the material. This process evaporates virtually all of the other elements and leaves a product that is made up of around 95% carbon, 5% oxygen, and trace amounts of other common elements.
The remaining activated carbon is itself an effective adsorber of impurities, so anything that’s left besides carbon after activation is completely bound to the product. It’s pure because it’s a purifier!