General Types of Activated Carbon filters

Activated carbon filtration process is one of the most widely used filtration techniques to remove a broad range of contaminants from drinking water such as natural organic matter, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and petroleum related compounds. Organic compounds are mainly responsible for taste and odor issues in drinking water. Thus, activated carbon can be very useful in removing the unaesthetic attributes of drinking water such as bad taste and strong odor.

The demand for point-of-use (POU) filters in Dubai has increased substantially owing to the high costs of thermal desalination plants for water treatment, scarcity of fresh natural resources, and increased urban development. There are several types of home water filters available in the market today that employ activated carbon filtration technology.

One of the main reasons for the popularity of activated carbon filters is low maintenance and easy installation procedures. Maintenance of activated carbon filters is as straightforward and simple as replacing the carbon cartridge once or twice a year depending upon usage and water quality. Some advanced filters have the capability of removing heavy metals such as lead, asbestos, and also microbial organisms from the water. This article provides a brief overview of the activated carbon process and the types of filtration systems available in the market.


Activated carbon filters work on the principle of adsorption. Adsorption is both the physical and chemical process of accumulating a substance at the interface between solid and liquid phases. Activated carbon is a highly effective adsorbant because it is a very porous material and provides a large surface area for contaminants to adhere. The rate of adsorption depends on the following factors:

  1. Physical properties of the activated carbon such as pore size and surface area/li>
  2. Type of carbon source or the amount of oxygen and hydrogen present/li>
  3. Chemical properties and concentration of the contaminants/li>
  4. Temperature and pH of the water/li>
  5. Flow rate of water through the activated carbon filters

There are two types of activated carbon used in water treatment – Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC). The main difference between GAC and PAC is their particle size. GAC has a larger particle size than the PAC and thus larger surface area. GAC is made from raw organic materials such as coconut shells or coal (bituminous, anthracite, etc.) that are high in carbon.


Activated carbon for POU filters are available in the following categories:

1. Pitcher filters

these are the simplest form of filters. Water is poured through the top and it is filtered by gravity through the cartridge at the bottom. They are quite slow and are useful for low flowrates thus smaller volumes of water.

2. Faucet filters

these are small units attached to the kitchen faucet. They’re most convenient to use owing to their size. Some units come with bypass valves so that just water for cooking and drinking is filtered (mainly the cold water tap).

3. Under-sink filters

these are much more complex than the pitcher or faucet filters. High volume units are generally designed to be installed in-line, under the sink. They are usually installed on the cold water line that is specifically used for cooking and drinking purposes.

Figure 1 – Types of Activated Carbon Home Filtration Systems
Reference: Seelig, B., Bergsrud, F., & Derickson, R. (1992). Treatment systems for household water supplies: activated carbon filtration.

water filter provides a broad spectrum of activated carbon filters such as the 3M™ Water Filtration Products that contain Integrated Pre-activated Carbon Technology (IMPACT) that help provide solutions for varying water conditions. The consultants at can help you with suitable recommendations for organic matter removal and resolve taste and odor issues. The technicians will help with the installation of the recommended filter products. is dedicated to provide the best solutions to meet the drinking water requirements of their customers.


Matilainen, A., Vieno, N., & Tuhkanen, T. (2006). The efficiency of the activated carbon filtration in the natural organic matter removal. Environment international, 32(3), 324-331.
Seelig, B., Bergsrud, F., & Derickson, R. (1992). Treatment systems for household water supplies: activated carbon filtration.

Meet our Expert

Abhiram Satyadev has a Masters in Environmental Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an MBA at Goldey Beacom College in Delaware, and a Masters Certificate in Standford University. He is currently the Program Manager, Potomac Interceptor for the DC Water in Washington DC. He is responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the Potomac Interceptor Renewal Facility specifically including operation and maintenance of odor control facilities at the Potomac Interceptor Sites and Pump Stations.

With Saniwater, he serves as our Research and Development Consultant and provides us with insights into his expertise. Read his section here on to know more.