Coal vs Charcoal: Difference and Comparison

The difference Between Coal and Charcoal is their formation. When the remains of plants and animals transform into fossil fuel, it forms coal.

Coal and Charcoal are not pure carbon. They are in the improper states of carbon and are known as ‘carbon compounds.’ People confuse these two compounds, although they are differently formed and used. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Coal is a natural resource formed by decomposing plant matter, whereas charcoal is made from burning wood in a low-oxygen environment.
  2. Coal has a higher energy content and burns hotter than charcoal, while charcoal burns more cleanly and is used in cooking and grilling.
  3. Coal is widely used in electricity generation and industrial processes, while charcoal is used primarily in cooking, heating fuel, and producing activated carbon.

Coal vs Charcoal

Coal is a fossil fuel primarily made of carbon, while charcoal is produced by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment. While coal has a higher energy content and burns at a higher temperature, charcoal is considered a more sustainable fuel source with lower environmental impacts.

Coal vs Charcoal
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They appear in amorphous shapes and look similar. But after close observation, it is noticeable that the former is mainly found in combustible black or dark brown rock colours and can vary with different types.

On the contrary, the latter only appears in the porous black colour.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCoalCharcoal
MeaningsCoal is a sedimentary rock composed of carbon with many other elements, including sulfur, nitrogen, and hydrogen.Charcoal is an improper form of carbon acquired by the biased burning of carbonaceous substances in the presence of limited oxygen.
OccurrenceIt naturally occurs from fossil fuels.It occurs naturally or artificially from burning carbonaceous materials.
FormationWhen the remains of plants and animals transform into fossil fuel, it forms coal.When water and other volatile substances are removed from the carbonic compounds, their left residues form charcoal.
Duration Coal can take centuries to form.Charcoal can take very little time to form.
MineralCoal is a mineral which is why it is mined out.Charcoal is not a mineral, so it does not need mining.
DensityCoal is dense than charcoal.Charcoal is less dense than coal.
PermeabilityIt is less porous than charcoal.It is more porous than coal.
Heat productionIt produces more heat as compared to charcoal.Compared to coal, it produces less heat.
Colour AppearanceIts appearance varies with its different types. But it is mainly found in combustible black or dark brown rock colours.It appears in a porous black colour.
TypesLignite, Anthracite, Peat, Bituminous, and Sub-bituminous are the main types of coal.Its main types are Common, Lump, Sugar, Briquettes, Activated, Extruded, and Japanese charcoals.
UsageIt is used for industrial purposes and heating systems.It is used for cooking, barbeques, purification, and other domestic purposes.
Environmental ImpactsAir Pollution, Displacement of People, etc. Deformation, Soil Erosion, Desertification, etc.

What is Coal?

Coal is a fossil fuel produced by decomposed plants, animals below high temperatures, and pressure underneath the Earth’s crust over centuries. It is a natural phenomenon.

Its sedimentary ore consists of carbon with an evident concentration of other elements, including sulfur, nitrogen, and hydrogen. 

When the remains of plants and animals transform into fossil fuel, it forms coal. It can take millions of years for that. It is also a mineral, so it is mined out like any other mineral.

It produces more heat as compared to charcoal. It is dense than charcoal and less porous. Lignite, Anthracite, Peat, Bituminous, and Sub-bituminous are its main types.

For industrial purposes and heating systems, it is most useful. Its appearance varies with different types. But it is mainly found in combustible black or dark brown rock colours.

Coal mines can affect their surroundings by creating problems like Air Pollution, Displacement of people.

coal

What is Charcoal? 

Charcoal is a black, porous solid acquired by partially combusting wood and other similar substances.

Charcoal is an impure form of carbon obtained by partially burning carbonaceous materials with limited oxygen. It occurs naturally or human-made from burning carbonaceous materials.

After removing water and other volatile substances from the carbonic compounds, their left residues form charcoal. It can take very little time for its formation. It is not a mineral, so it does not need mining.

It is less dense than coal. It is more porous than coal.

Compared to coal, it produces less heat. It appears in a porous black colour. Its main types are common, Lump, Sugar, Briquettes, Activated, Extruded, and Japanese.

It is helpful for cooking, barbeques, purification, and other domestic purposes. It can cause environmental problems such as Deformation, Soil Erosion, Desertification, etc. 

charcoal

Main Differences Between Coal and Charcoal

  1. Coal naturally occurs from fossil fuels, whereas charcoal appears naturally or human-made from burning carbonaceous materials.
  2. Coal can take centuries to form. While Charcoal forms quite rapidly.
  3. When the remains of plants and animals mutate into fossil fuel, it forms coal. Conversely, after removing water and other volatile substances from the carbonic compounds, their left sediments form charcoal.
  4. The previous is a mineral which is why it is mined out. On the contrary, the succeeding is not a mineral, so it does not need mining.
  5. The first produces more heat as compared to the second. 
  6. Coal is denser than charcoal.
  7. Coal is less porous than charcoal.
  8. The appearance of the former varies with different types. But it is mainly found in combustible black or dark brown rock colours. And the latter appears in a porous black colour.
Difference Between Coal and Charcoal
References
  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15567030802612028 
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969804309000736 
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2238785419305757 

This article has been written by: Supriya Kandekar

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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