Charcoal is a lightweight black carbon residue produced by strongly heating wood (or other animal and plant materials) in minimal oxygen to remove all water and volatile constituents. In the traditional version of this pyrolysis process, called charcoal burning, often by forming a charcoal kiln, the heat is supplied by burning part of the starting material itself, with a limited supply of oxygen. The material can also be heated in a closed retort. Modern "charcoal" briquettes used for outdoor cooking may contain many other additives, e.g. coal.


Charcoal burning
Mangrove charcoal burning video
Wood pile before covering it with turf or soil, and firing it (circa 1890)

This process happens naturally when combustion is incomplete, and is sometimes used in radiocarbon dating. It also happens inadvertently while burning wood, as in a fireplace or wood stove. The visible flame in these is due to combustion of the volatile gases exuded as the wood turns into charcoal. The soot and smoke commonly given off by wood fires result from incomplete combustion of those volatiles. Charcoal burns at a higher temperature than wood, with hardly a visible flame, and releases almost nothing except heat and carbon dioxide (One kilogram of charcoal contains 680 to 820 grams of carbon, which when combined with oxygen from the atmosphere form 2.5 to 3 kg of carbon dioxide).

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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Charcoal, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.