Like many hunters, I have used these suits for years while being somewhat skeptical about their effectiveness. Being an engineer, my curiosity finaly got the better of me and I decided to do a little research on activated charcoal.
For those of you who do not like to read here is the short version: Yes, activated charcoal does absorb scent molecules. NO, as used in the current types of "activated charcoal" sent control suits it does NOT work.
For those who want to know why, here is a short description of what I found out:
Activated charcoal is much like a very small sponge. It has little cavities and cracks that can and do capture scent molecules and trap them. In sufficient quanitiy the activated charcoal can absorb enough scent to provide the desired effect of minimizing human body odor outside the suit.
Here are the problems. Acivated charcoal will absorb ANY and ALL odors exposed to it until it is FULL. Just as running water into a dry sponge will eventually fill it up, the same thing happens when activated charcoal is exposed to odors, any odors. By the time your sent control suit makes it to the store it is FULL and cannot absorb any more scent molecules. The US Military uses a similar type suit for chemical warfare. The activated charcoal is used to absorb potential chemical or biological molecules. The suits are manufactured in a scent free clean room environment, then individually vacume packed. Once the seal has been broken, the suit is considered good for 24 hours then is discarded. "Discarded" not "reactivated".
Now, what about "reactivating"? Activated charcoal is "activated" at around 800 degrees F. Yes, that is 800, not the 125 to 150 degrees you will get in your dryer. No, exposing the activated charcoal to 150 degrees will not "partially" reactivate it. It does nothing.....nada, zip, zero........... The dryer may release some odor that is trapped in the fabric but is simply not hot enough to cause the charcoal to "open" up and release the trapped scent molecules. The end result. Your scent control suit is FULL of scent, and you cannot heat it up hot enough to reactivate it without destroying the suit.
What about all the evidence (deer downwind that did not smell you) that the suits work. What is at work is that many people take a lot of care to eliminate scent from thier body. Then they keep thier sent control suit in a scent controled environment, etc........in short, they take a lot of care with minimizing thier scent. That is what works, not the suit.
As for some of the new stuff that is basically using an ozone molecule, that could work. I have not looked at this stuff real close yet. However the general idea of saturating a garment in ozone should eliminate much of the odors contained in the garment. The ozone molecules trapped in the fabric "might" continue to eliminate odors for a few hours depending on the makeup of the fabric and how well it trapped the ozone molecule inside the weave of the fabric. From a scientific standpoint this method seems to have more promise than the activated charcoal. One of these days I will get curious enough to research that one too..........