Charcoal may seem a mundane material, but its unique properties have been valued by people throughout history. It was first used more than 30,000 years ago to make some of the earliest cave paintings. Much later, charcoal played an important role as a technologically material. Now charcoal is also of great interest since we are beginning to achieve a detailed picture of its atomic structure for the first time.
Wood charcoal as a fuel
When talking about wood charcoal most people think about it as a cooking fuel. It is known that wood charcoal is much better than wood due to the following reasons: its calorific value is higher than that of wood, its ignition temperature is less than wood, it causes less air pollution and it smells better. So, it is widely used for outdoor grilling and barbecues in backyards and on camping trips.
Its use as a fuel was crucial in the development of metallurgy. Thus, charcoal is an ideal fuel for a forge and is still widely used by blacksmiths. It is also an excellent reducing fuel for the production of iron and has been used that way since Roman times.
So, charcoal has been used since the earliest times for a large range of purposes including art and medicine, but by far its most important use has been as a metallurgical fuel. Wood charcoal is also important to chemists, gardeners, households etc. As can be seen the science of charcoal has been studied for over 200 years, but there is still much to learn.