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What is Methane?

Discovered by an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta in the year 1776 was the simplest form of saturated hydrocarbons called Methane. Methane is an odorless gas with no color. It has four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom which is why it is also called a tetrahedral molecule. The chemical formula of methane is CH4. Moreover, methane is also the simplest alkane found on Earth. The methane gas is also found in the seafloor, below the ground apart from the atmosphere where it is present in abundance. It is also important to note here that methane is a non-toxic but flammable gas. 

Methane Structure Ch4

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The structure of methane is tetrahedral, consisting of 3 hydrogen atoms and 1 carbon atom. This structure is very important in organic chemistry as it is the basis of all compounds in which a carbon atom is bonded to four other atoms. Moreover, it is important to note here that the tetrahedral bond angle of methane is 109.5°. VSEPR (valence-shell-electron-pair repulsion) theory further explains the molecular shape of methane as the one with minimum mutual repulsion

Properties of Methane

Since Methane is the simplest alkane as well as the simplest form of saturated hydrocarbons, it is imperative to learn about the properties of such a unique compound. Some of the important properties of methane are listed below:

  • The chemical formula of methane is CH4.

  • The Molar Mass of methane is 16.04 g/mol.

  • Methane gas is lighter than air with a specific gravity of 0.554.

  • It is only soluble in water.

  • When methane is burnt, it creates a flame that is slightly pale, slightly luminous, and very hot.

  • Methane is also one of the most important greenhouse gases.

  • Pure methane is also used for domestic heating and cooking as it is rich with energy with an energy density of 55.7 MJ/kg.

  • The boiling point of methane is −161.50 °C.

  • The melting point of methane is −182.5 °C.

  • Methane gas is easy to ignite

  • The vapors of methane are lighter than air.

  • When exposed to fire or heat for a long time, methane can rupture the container containing it and the rocker.

  • Methane also has a role as a fossil fuel and a bacterial metabolite.

  • One of the chemical properties of methane is that it is the conjugate acid of a methanide.

Uses of Methane

Methane with the chemical formula of CH4 holds unique properties that can lead to many uses of methane in everyday life. There some popular uses of methane are mentioned below.

  • As methane is an energy powerhouse, it is used in automobiles, ovens as well as water heaters as a fuel.

  • Another popular use of methane is for the generation of electricity.

  • Methane, refined in its liquid form, is used as a rocket fuel as well.

  • Methane is also used in industries as an antifreeze ingredient.

  • Another common use of methane is as a fertilizer.

  • Sanitize products consist of some proportion of methane.

  • Methane is used in the testing of gas appliances.

  • Gas cookers work with the help of methane as a fuel.

  • Methane, due to incomplete combustion, can be used as a reinforcing agent in rubber used in car tires as incomplete combustion of methane yields carbon black.

  • Methane is also used in making various chemicals.

  • Methane is commonly used for a variety of industrial products.

  • The pulp and paper industry used methane for product

  • Businesses that require uses such as dehumidification, melting, drying also use methane.

  • Methane gas is abundantly used in the automobile industry as well. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is the Main Cause of the Release of Methane Gas?

Methane gas is available in the atmosphere in abundance. Apart from the vast atmosphere of the Earth, it is also present in the seafloors and below the Earth’s surface. One of the most common reasons for the release of Methane is when coal, natural gas, or oil is produced. 

Similarly, methane is also released because of transpiration. Other sources of emission of methane are by livestock, farming activities, landfills, and the degradation of agricultural waste. Since there is a rise in all these activities, there is also a rise in the production of methane gas in our atmosphere.

Q2. What is the Relationship Between Methane Gas and the Environment?

Excessive emission of methane is not considered viable for the environment. Methane is also called greenhouse gas as it leads to warming up of the temperature of the atmosphere. To explain this, let's use the example where there is a spillage of methane into the air due to a cracked pipeline. 

Now when methane is released from the pipeline, it absorbs the heat from the sun and eventually leads to warming up the Earth’s temperature. As there are myriad ways of the release of methane, it leads to an overall higher temperature of the Earth's temperature causing the Greenhouse effect.