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Difference between Coal and Charcoal

Coal and charcoal both are carbon compounds. They are impure states of carbon so they cannot exhibit all the properties of pure carbon. People often confuse carbon with charcoal as they share features. Let us see how they differ from each other!

Coal:

Coal is a fossil fuel that is formed over millions of years from decaying plant and animal under high temperature and pressure below the Earth's crust. In other words, remains of plant and animal that are buried under Earth's surface transform into coal under high pressure and temperature over a long period of time.

Coal is a non-renewable natural resource as once it is used it cannot be generated easily. However, coal deposits are found all over the world. It is mined out of the ground like other minerals.

Coal can be of different types based on its properties and composition. Some common types of coal are as follows:

  • Anthracite
  • Bituminous
  • Sub-bituminous
  • Peat
  • Lignite

Charcoal:

Charcoal is a black, porous solid produced by partial combustion of the wood or other combustible substances. It is the black substance that is left behind when water and other volatile substances are removed from the carbonic compounds by heating them.

Charcoal is mainly produced through pyrolysis, a process in which organic matter is decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. It can be obtained from wood by heating it in a limited supply of air.

Charcoal has many types some of which are as follows:

  • Common charcoal
  • Sugar charcoal
  • Activated charcoal
  • Lump charcoal

The density of the charcoal is around 25% of the original wood and its average density is around 10% of the coal. You will need 10 times more charcoal than coal to produce the same amount of heat.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between coal and charcoal are as follows:

Coal Charcoal
It is a fossil fuel that is formed over millions of year from decayed plants and animals under high temperature and pressure below the Earth's crust. It is a black, porous solid obtained by the partial combustion of wood and other similar substances.
It is the remains of plants and animals that transform into fossil fuel (coal). It is the black substance or residue left behind when water and other volatile substances are removed from the carbonic compounds.
It takes over millions of years for the formation of coal. It can be produced quickly.
It is a mineral. It is not a mineral.
It is more dense and less porous than charcoal. It is less dense and more porous than coal.
It is mined out like other minerals. It does not need to be mined.
It produces more heat than produced by the same quantity of charcoal. It produces less heat than the same quantity of coal.
Coal is mainly used for the industrial purposes like in the heating systems. It is mainly used for domestic purposes such as for cooking, barbeques etc.
Common types include Anthracite, Bituminous, Sub-bituminous, Peat and Lignite Common types include Extruded charcoal, Lump charcoal, Japanese charcoal and Briquettes
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