Carbon black is a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, ethylene cracking tar, and a small amount from vegetable oil. Carbon black is a form of amorphous carbon that has a highsurface-area-to-volume ratio, although its surface-area-to-volume ratio is low compared to that of activated carbon. It is dissimilar to soot in its much higher surface-area-to-volume ratio and significantly less (negligible and non-bioavailable) PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) content. Carbon black is used as a pigment and reinforcement in rubber and plastic products.
The current International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluation is that, "Carbon black is possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)". Short-term exposure to high concentrations of carbon black dust may produce discomfort to the upper respiratory tract, through mechanical irritation.

 

Common uses

The most common use [70%] of carbon black is as a pigment and reinforcing phase in automobile tires. Carbon black also helps conduct heat away from the tread and belt area of the tire, reducing thermal damage and increasing tire life. Carbon black particles are also employed in some radar absorbent materials and in photocopier and laser printer toner.
Total production was around 8,100,000 metric tons (8,930,000 short tons) in 2006. About 20% of world production goes into belts, hoses, and other non-tire rubber goods. The balance is mainly used as a pigment in inkscoatings and plastics. For example, it is added to polypropylene because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation, which otherwise causes the material to degrade.
Carbon black from vegetable origin is used as a food coloring, in Europe known as additive E153.


 

Reinforcing carbon blacks

The highest volume use of carbon black is as a reinforcing filler in rubber products, especially tires. While a pure gum vulcanizate of styrene-butadiene has a tensile strength of no more than 2.5 MPa, and almost nonexistent abrasion resistance, compounding it with 50% of its weight of carbon black improves its tensile strength and wear resistance as shown in the below table.


Types of carbon black used in tires

Name

Abbrev.

ASTM
Desig.

Particle
Size
nm

Tensile
Strength
MPa

Relative
Laboratory
Abrasion

Relative
Roadwear
Abrasion

Super Abrasion Furnace

SAF

N110

20–25

25.2

1.35

1.25

Intermediate SAF

ISAF

N220

24–33

23.1

1.25

1.15

High Abrasion Furnace

HAF

N330

28–36

22.4

1.00

1.00

Easy Processing Channel

EPC

N300

30–35

21.7

0.80

0.90

Fast Extruding Furnace

FEF

N550

39–55

18.2

0.64

0.72

High Modulus Furnace

HMF

N683

49–73

16.1

0.56

0.66

Semi-Reinforcing Furnace

SRF

N770

70–96

14.7

0.48

0.60

Fine Thermal

FT

N880

180–200

12.6

0.22

--

Medium Thermal

MT

N990

250–350

9.8

0.18

--

Practically all rubber products where tensile and abrasion wear properties are crucial use carbon black, so they are black in color. Where physical properties are important but colors other than black are desired, such as white tennis shoes, precipitated or fumed silica has been used as a substitute for carbon black in reinforcing ability. Silica-based fillers are also gaining market share in automotive tires because they provide better trade-off for fuel efficiency and wet handling due to a lower rolling loss compared to carbon black-filled tires. Traditionally silica fillers had worse abrasion wear properties, but the technology has gradually improved to where they can match carbon black abrasion performance.


 

Pigment

Carbon black (Colour Index International, PBL-7) is the name of a common black pigment, traditionally produced from charring organic materials such as wood or bone. It appears black because it reflects almost no light in the visible part of the spectrum. It is known by a variety of names, each of which reflects a traditional method for producing carbon black:

  • Ivory black was traditionally produced by charring ivory or bones (see bone char).
  • Vine black was traditionally produced by charring desiccated grape vines and stems.
  • Lamp black was traditionally produced by collecting soot, also known as lampblack, from oil lamps.

Newer methods of producing carbon black have superseded these traditional sources, although some materials are still produced using traditional methods. For artisanal purposes, it is very useful.


 

Surface chemistry

All carbon blacks have chemisorbed oxygen complexes (i.e., carboxylicquinonic, lactonic, phenolic groups and others) on their surfaces to varying degrees depending on the conditions of manufacture. These surface oxygen groups are collectively referred to as volatile content. It is also known to be a non-conductive material due to its volatile content.
The coatings and inks industries prefer grades of carbon black that are acid oxidized. Acid is sprayed in high temperature dryers during the manufacturing process to change the inherent surface chemistry of the black. The amount of chemically-bonded oxygen on the surface area of the black is increased to enhance performance characteristics.