Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula CH4. It is the simplest alkane and the main component of natural gas.
Methane is also partly responsible for climate change, as it is a very potent greenhouse gas.
Methane will burn in air to produce carbon dioxide and water vapor. It is very slightly basic.
Methane is a gas at standard conditions, lighter than air. It is colorless, odorless (the smell of flatulence comes from impurities in the source that give a warning of a leak), insoluble in water, but soluble in organic solvents. Methane has a melting point of -182.5 °C and a boiling point of −161 °C.
Methane is sold in compressed gas cylinders, mixed with small amounts of tert-butylthiol, which gives it the characteristic "gas" smell. (Methane itself has no smell) The thiole can be removed by bubbling the gas through a scrubber. This experiment should only be performed in a well ventilated area, as pure methane is odorless and in case of a leak it may become an explosive hazard.
- CH3COONa + NaOH → CH4 + Na2CO3
Another simple way is to add water to aluminium carbide:
- Al4C3 + 12 H2O → 3 CH4 + 4 Al(OH)3
Methane is not toxic, but it's extremely flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air, at concentrations between 4.4-17%. Methane is also an asphyxiant and may displace oxygen in an enclosed space.
Methane gas cylinders should be stored in cold places and away from any strong oxidizing or corrosive source. Valves should always be checked for leaks.
Methane is a potent gas involved in global warming, so it's recommended to burn it when possible, instead of letting it rise in the atmosphere.