Alessandro Volta collected the gas rising from the marsh, and by 1778 had isolated the pure gas. He also demonstrated that the gas could be ignited with an electric spark. The name “methane” was coined in 1866 by the German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann. The name was derived from methanol.

Methane, colourless, odourless gas that occurs abundantly in nature and as a product of certain human activities. Methane is the simplest member of the paraffin series of hydrocarbons and is among the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Its chemical formula is CH4.

Methane is an important source of hydrogen and some organic chemicals. Methane reacts with steam at high temperatures to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen; the latter is used in the manufacture of ammonia for fertilizers and explosives. Other valuable chemicals derived from methane include methanol, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and nitromethane. The incomplete combustion of methane yields carbon black, which is widely used as a reinforcing agent in rubber used for automobile tires.

  • Natural, marsh or swamp gas
  • Colorless, odorless, flammable gas
  • Lighter than air
  • Vapor Density (0.6)
  • Toxic?
  • LEL = 5%; UEL = 15%