Methane hydrate molecule. Animation of the structure of a molecule of methane hydrate, also known as methane ice or methane clathrate. Atoms are represented as spheres and are colour-coded: carbon (dark grey), hydrogen (white) and oxygen (red). Methane hydrate consists of a molecule of methane (centre), surrounded by a cage of water molecules. There is hydrogen bonding between the water molecules, but not between the methane and the water molecules. The whole structure is known as a clathrate. It is found in the very cold and high pressure environments under the Arctic permafrost and in marine sediments, where it forms a crystalline solid. It is a huge potential energy source, and also a potential source of rapid climate change if the methane is released into the atmosphere. Also available as an alpha channel animation and with a white background.
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