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Cabot Corporation is buying Norit. Cabot is best known as a supplier of Cabosil, a fumed silica used as a thickener in formulated products like paint. It also makes carbon black used as a black pigment and in rubber formulations as in tires. They may also have oil interests. Cabot is an old line Boston family.

Activated carbon has long been used to adsorb impurities. It is often used in chemical processing to remove color bodies and hence to whiten products like sugar. In World War I activated carbon was used in gas masks to absorb poison gas and research indicated that wood ash from certain wood, such as coconut shells was most effective. One suspects there is much technology involved in making effective products for certain uses.

Calgon Carbon, once a subsidiary of Merck, is the leading competitor. Their activated carbon is made from coal.

Once, powdered charcoal was added to a solution of the product in say water or alcohol, and then filtered out. Usually the product was then crystallized from the solution, and dried. Now, columns filled with granulated charcoal are commonly used. Some processes allow the charcoal to be regenerated with steam or by alkali wash. In other cases spent charcoal is discarded or even sent to hazardous waste disposal.

Concerns about trace impurities in many products but especially in drinking water lend themselves to treatment with granulated carbon. Halocarbons, pesticides, estrogens, etc, etc, all may require carbon treatment if levels must be adjusted. This is well established, reliable technology that may require fine tuning, but almost certainly can be used if people are willing to pay for the added treatment.
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