A factorial design analysis was applied to optimize the production of activated carbon from chestnut shell by chemical activation using ZnCl2. The effects of various experimental parameters such as activation temperature, heating rate and holding time on the solid yield and Brauner-Emmet-Teller surface area values of activated carbon were investigated. Analysis of variance method was used to determine the significant factors on each experimental design response. The best activated carbon which was produced at the activation temperature of 873 K, with a heating rate of 15 K min-1 and 45 minutes holding time had the highest surface area (1823 m2 g-1) and acceptable solid yield (33.31%). The overall results showed that the factorial design analysis is an appropriate method to be able to determine the optimum parameters for the activated carbon production. © 2013 American Scientific Publishers All rights reserved.