Methane hydrate

Methane hydrate

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Credit: DR TIM EVANS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Methane hydrate. Computer model of the structure of methane hydrate, also known as methane ice or methane clathrate. Each unit, known as a clathrate, consists of a molecule of methane, composed of carbon (green) and hydrogen (white), surrounded by a cage of water molecules, composed of oxygen (red) and hydrogen. The water molecules are joined by hydrogen bonds (dotted lines). Methane hydrate 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 thought there is approximately 3000 times the volume of methane in hydrates than in the atmosphere, making it a huge potential energy source. However, methane is a greenhouse gas and so any release would contribute towards global warming.

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