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Methane (CH4) is the simplest alkane. Alkanes are a series of highly flammable molecules that resemble methane and form the basis of petroleum and benzene.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. A large sculpture of a methane molecule stands alongside the motorway between Groningen and Hoogezand, as a monument to the Slochteren gas field, one of the largest in the world.

Like carbon dioxide, methane is also one of main greenhouse gases. The amount of methane in the atmosphere has risen by 150 percent since the eighteenth century, through the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), rice cultivation, waste processing and livestock farming.

Butane, made up of four methane molecules linked together, is another alkane. It is used as a lighter gas and as a propellant in almost all aerosols. Butane has a boiling point of half a degree below zero. See what happens if you put a cigarette lighter in the freezer for a short time and then try to use it.

Last modified:12 April 2021 1.23 p.m.
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