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Carbon Black

The earliest form of carbon black was probably lampblack used by the ancient Egyptians, Indians and Chinese as a medium for writing, for painting and even as cosmetics. The practice ensues today, usually with the ancestral homes in rural areas, as some form of homemade mascara.

carbon black

What is carbon black?

Carbon black today is used primarily as the main reinforcing agent for rubber. As the term denotes, the substance is a black powder in granular form that is a by-product of the process of burning hydrocarbons under a limited supply of air. In short, it is a process that results to incomplete burning. The black smoke emitted from the partial burn of hydrocarbons that is composed of extremely minute carbon black particles are then separated from the combustion gases to the end up with a fluffy, intense black hue.

What are the related uses of carbon black?

Carbon black finds practical use in rubber products and it is used extensively with rubber tires. Since carbon black is used over varying specifications, particle size, structure and surface area play a vital role as a component of rubber, plastics and other related products. Thus, carbon black is produced in different grades to meet the varying needs of manufacturers. Research reveals that the smaller particles of carbon black gives better abrasion resistance qualities when compared to larger particles.

With rubber tires, carbon black is used as a pigment and reinforcing shield that helps to divert heat away from the tread and belt area, thereby reducing thermal damage and extending considerably the average life of a tire. Carbon black is also used as a printer toner and with some radar absorbent materials. Nevertheless, it is used in all rubber applications where tensile strength and abrasion wear properties are essential.

How is carbon black manufactured?

Five processes have been introduced in the market, each dependent on the type of hydrocarbon used. The furnace black process uses aromatic oils (crude oil base) and is burned in a reactor to separate black carbon from tail gas and made into pellets of varying sizes once it cools down and becomes dense.

The thermal black process on the other hand uses natural gas, but follows the same process above. A third process called the acetylene black process uses acetylene and undergoes a process similar to thermal process, except that carbon black is not converted into pellets.

The oldest known process is the lampblack process (coal tar base) wherein heating is conducted on a cast-iron pan to produce carbon black. The fifth process is called the bone black process. This process though is excluded from the manufacturing category since it does not undergo a combustion related process.

What health hazards are associated with the manufacture of carbon black?

Three distinct substances are emitted from the manufacture of carbon black and these are carbon sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen cyanide. These substances are known to cause health hazards categorized as chronic (long-term exposure, no cancerous effects), acute (shor- term exposure, no cancerous effects), reproductive and developments effects while these may also cause certain cancers.

Again, ailments are dependent on the substances concentrated in a particular area, the frequency and duration of exposure, the character of exposed individuals and the specific pollutant as well.

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