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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Methane

Methane is a hydrocarbon that is a gas at room temperature (20°C). It is the simplest alkane and the main component of natural gas, about 87% by volume.

Its molecular formula is CH4, so it has one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms in a molecule.

Methane is used in gas taps in places such as chemistry classrooms, laboratories, etc. as it burns very easily because of its simple molecular structure.

In its natural state, methane is found both below ground and under the sea floor.

Methane was discovered and isolated by Alessandro Volta between 1776 and 1778 when studying marsh gas from Lake Maggiore.



Methane gas can often be seen bubbling up from the bottom of ponds. It is produced by the decomposition of dead plants and animals in the mud.

Capturing and storing methane poses challenges due to its gaseous state under normal conditions, but usually it is obtained by fractional distillation, after it has become liquid.

The Earth's atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150% since 1750,

A 2009 study, found that at a conservative estimate, at least 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions were attributable to the life cycle and supply chain of livestock products, meaning all meat, dairy, and by-products, and their transportation.

Testing Australian sheep for exhaled methane production (2001) By CSIRO, Wikipedia Commons

The daily methane output of an elephant can propel a car 20 miles (32km).

The atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon Titan contains 1.6% methane and thousands of methane lakes have been detected on the surface. Methane showers, probably prompted by changing seasons, have also been observed. On October 24, 2014, methane was found in polar clouds on Titan.

Polar clouds, made of methane, on Titan (left) compared with polar clouds on Earth (right).

Even though it is only a small part of the atmosphere, methane gas is what gives Neptune its blue hue. Methane absorbs red light, so when we look at Neptune, all we see is the blue that is not absorbed.


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