An amorphous form of carbon produced when wood, peat, bones, cellulose, or other carboniferous substances are heated with little or no air present, or are destructively distilled, for example in a kiln or retort. A highly porous residue of microcrystalline graphite remains. Charcoal has a high energy density and is used as a fuel and was used in blast furnaces in the manufacture of steel until the advent of coke. Charcoal is also used as a thermal insulator, by artists for drawing, in the manufacture of gunpowder, as a decolorizing agent, and in sugar refining and solvent recovery. A highly porous form, activated charcoal, is made by heating charcoal in steam; it is used for adsorption in refining processes and in gas masks.
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