What is the Difference Between Modern Carbon and Fossil Carbon

The key difference between modern carbon and fossil carbon is that modern carbon is the carbon contained in living and non-living things that are not yet transformed into fossils, whereas fossil carbon is the carbon deposited deep down the Earth for millions of years.

Carbon is an essential chemical element in living things and nature. We can categorize carbon into two types as modern carbon and fossil carbon.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Modern Carbon  
3. What is Fossil Carbon
4. Modern Carbon vs Fossil Carbon in Tabular Form
5. Summary – Modern Carbon vs Fossil Carbon

What is Modern Carbon?

Modern carbon is the carbon that occurs in living things and dead things which are not yet transformed into fossils. This type of carbon can be found in animals, trees, vegetation, etc., including carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Therefore, we can name it as bio-carbon as well.

Figure 01: Carbon Cycle

This type of carbon is present in biological systems, and it is a form of renewable carbon. Modern carbon usually occurs in trees, animals, soil, and oceans as a stored carbon form. We can increase the amount of modern carbon that occurs naturally by reforestation, avoiding deforestation, forest management, land management, etc.

What is Fossil Carbon?

Fossil carbon is the type of carbon that is stored in fossil fuels. This type of carbon originates from biocarbon contained in trees, plants, and vegetation, where dead plant materials tend to stay underground and are subjected to heat and pressure for million years. Thereafter, these dead parts convert into fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal. These are the major forms of fossil carbon that occurs as deposits deep down the Earth. We can take them through mining and excavation. Typically, fossil carbon is combined with other elements forming hydrocarbon, an important type of chemical compound in many industries.

Figure 02: Fossil Carbon

Moreover, we can use fossil carbon as a fuel and for other purposes such as the production of important chemical compounds. Burning fossil carbon releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This can cause damage to the environment, including global warming. Furthermore, fossil carbon on Earth is rapidly depleting due to high demand. More importantly, fossil carbon does not regenerate easily because it takes millions of years to form this type of carbon. Therefore, we can describe it as a non-renewable carbon source.

What is the Difference Between Modern Carbon and Fossil Carbon?

Carbon is an essential chemical element in living things and nature. The key difference between modern carbon and fossil carbon is that modern carbon is the carbon contained in living and non-living things that are not yet transformed into fossils, whereas fossil carbon is the carbon deposited deep down the Earth for millions of years. We can distinguish modern carbon from fossil carbon through carbon dating; modern carbon is rich in carbon-14 isotopes while fossil carbon does not contain carbon-14 isotopes.

The following table summarizes the difference between modern carbon and fossil carbon.

Summary – Modern Carbon vs Fossil Carbon

Carbon is an essential chemical element in living things and nature. The key difference between modern carbon and fossil carbon is that modern carbon is the carbon contained in living and non-living things that are not yet transformed into fossils, whereas fossil carbon is the carbon deposited deep down the Earth for millions of years.