What is Methane

Methane is a GREENHOUSE gas with a chemical formula CH4 produced naturally or by human activities. It is the simplest of alkane (compounds composed of only carbon and hydrogen) and is the main component of natural gas. It has 4 equivalent C-H bonds, Methane’s bond angles are 109.5 degrees.  Also known as: Natural Gas, Marsh Gas, LNG. It was discovered by Alessandro Volta between 1776 and 1778.

It can be considered as the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel but since it is present in nature as a gas it is difficult to transport from place to place. Methane can be formed by the decay of natural materials and is common in landfills, marshes, septic systems and sewers. Methane can be transferred from the source to some other place through pipelines or by some containers.

Wetlands and oceans can be considered to be the main source of METHANE gas in the world which approximately accounts to 40% of the total methane present in the world. Other sources are human activities which result in the production of methane gas. Apart from natural sources Methane can be obtained via biogas. Other sources include RICE FIELDS as they release methane at the time of their growth.

Methane is an odorless, colorless flammable gas. Methane can form an EXPLOSIVE mixture in air at levels as low as 5 percent. It evaporates quickly into the atmosphere. The melting point of methane is -187 °C, 85.7 K, -305 °F, and the boiling point is  -161 °C, 109-113 K, -263–256 °F. Its electronic structure is described by four bonding molecular orbitals (MOs) resulting from the overlap of the valence orbitals on C and H. The lowest energy MO is the result of the overlap of the 2s orbital on carbon with the in-phase combination of the 1s orbitals on the four hydrogen atoms. Above this level in energy is a triply degenerate set of MOs that involve overlap if the 2p orbitals on carbon with various linear combinations of the 1s orbitals on hydrogen.

Methane is mainly used as a FUEL in electric generators by burning it in a gas turbine or a steam boiler. In many homes Methane is piped into their houses for keeping their houses warm or for cooking purposes. In other applications methane in the form of compressed natural gas can be used as a vehicle fuel and is claimed to be more environment friendly than other fuels. Methane liberates less carbon dioxide than other alkanes.

Moreover researches are being done by NASA to use methane as a ROCKET FUEL as it is available in abundance and is less harmful to the environment. Methane which is emitted from coal mines can be used to generate electricity.

*Methane is an extremely FLAMMABLE GAS so must be handled with care.