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The reaction of SO2 with carbon (C) in the presence of O2 and H2O involves a series of reactions that leads to the formation of sulfuric acid as the final product. The rate-determining step in the overall process is the oxidation of SO2 to SO3. Three SO2 oxidation reactions are possible. Adsorbed SO2 (C-SO2) can react either with gas phase O2 or with adsorbed oxygen (C-O complex) to form sulfur trioxide (SO3), or gas phase SO2 can react directly with the C-O complex. In optimizing the SO2 removal capabilities of carbon, most studies only assume a given mechanism for SO2 adsorption and conversion to H2SO4 to be operable. The appropriate SO2 oxidation step and role of the C-O complex in this mechanism remain to be determined. The ultimate goal of this study was to prepare activated char from Illinois coal with optimal properties for low-temperature (80-150 ??C) removal of sulfur dioxide from coal combustion flue gas. The SO2 adsorption capacity of activated char was found to be inversely proportional to the amount of oxygen adsorbed on its surface. A temperature-programmed desorption technique was developed to titrate those sites responsible for adsorption of SO2 and conversion to H2SO4. On the basis of these results, a mechanism for SO2 removal by carbon was proposed. The derived rate expression showed SO2 adsorption to be dependent only on the fundamental rate constant and concentration of carbon atoms designated as free sites. Recent studies indicate a similar relationship exists between the rate of carbon gasification (in CO2 or H2O) and the number of reactive sites as determined by transient kinetics experiments. Utilizing the concept of active or free sites, it was possible to produce a char from Illinois coal having an SO2 adsorption capacity surpassing that of a commercial catalytic activated carbon.