RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Methane molecules, computer artwork. Molecular models of a methane molecule (CH4). One carbon atom (black) is surrounded by four hydrogen atoms (yellow) 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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