Methane molecules

Methane molecules

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Credit: RUSSELL KIGHTLEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Methane molecules, computer artwork. Four different molecular models of a methane molecule (CH4). One carbon atom is surrounded by four hydrogen atoms in tetrahedral symmetry. Each molecule is surrounded by van der Waals radii (yellow). Methane, part of the alkanes, is a colourless, odourless gas. It is the chief constituent of natural gas, which is used as a fuel. It can be formed by the decay of vegetable matter. When released into the atmosphere, methane helps to trap the heat of the Sun, acting as a greenhouse gas and contributing to global warming.

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