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Methane

Future fuel

Author(s): Ranjit Rath
Issue Date: Feb 15, 2002
oceanographer William P Dillon likes to surprise visitors to his lab by taking ordinary-looking ice balls and setting them on fire. "They're easy to light. You just put a match to them and they will go," says Dillon, a researcher with the us Geological Survey (usgs) in Woods Hole, Massachusettes. The prop in Dillon's show is a curious structure called methane hydrate.

Cat out of the bag

Issue Date: Apr 15, 2001
Scientists from Imperial Collegeukhave come out with the first observed evidence of increase in greenhouse effect on Earth between 1970 and 1997. Previous studies in this area have depended on theoretical simulations because of lack of data. Howeverthe researchers at the Imperial College reached their conclusions after analysing data collected by two different earth-orbiting spacecrafts in 1970 and 1997.

Tackling cow belching

Issue Date: Sep 30, 2000
Scientists have developed a new way of tackling global warming by feeding cattle a daily dose of bacteria to stop them belching out methane as they graze. Cows, and to a lesser extent sheep, are responsible for nearly a quarter of the global emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas. Contrary to the popular image of flatulent cows, most of the methane produced is released from their mouths. Scientists had tried to tackle the problem by changing their diet.

Burning ice

Issue Date: Mar 15, 2000
unbelievable, but true, ice crystals found inside the seafloor have more energy than all the world's fossil fuels put together. Before the 1970s, scientists did not even know that they existed under the sea. But several expeditions later, some startling findings have come to light about methane hydrate - a white, ice-like, compound made up of molecules of methane gas trapped inside cages of frozen water.

Predicting doom

Issue Date: Jan 31, 2000
the concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide ( co 2 ), methane and nitrogen in the atmosphere have been steadily rising over the last few decades. This is likely to go up unabated.

Methane, inorganically

Issue Date: Jan 31, 2000
Using a naturally-occurring iron-nickel alloy, some US researchers have developed a new method to produce methane. The scientists point out that if the process occurs within the Earth's crust, it would mean a source of methane other than the digestion or decomposting of dead organic matter. They say the process of methane formation is abiogenic, implying that it is not connected with biological processes. It has been developed by Berndt and Juske Horita of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and produces methane from biocarbonate ions and hydrogen at temperatures up to 400C.

Charred to extinction

Issue Date: Jan 15, 2000
if a team of oceanographers are to be believed, methane-fuelled firestorms could have been the last straw for some species, including the dinosaurs. They believe that the impact of a giant asteroid or comet in the Gulf of Mexico released vast quantities of methane that set the air on fire and hastened the extinction of several life forms.

Good riddance to bad rubbish

Issue Date: Mar 31, 1999

Absorbing methane

Issue Date: Nov 30, 1998
GLOBAL warming is perhaps the biggest threat the Earth has ever faced. Scientists and environmentalists grappling with ways to avoid the disaster have found a bacterium that eats up methane. The researchers hope the organism could be used to fight global warming by preventing greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere. An international team of researchers found the bacteria growing in acidic peat bogs in western Siberia. Plant material decays in the bogs releasing gases such as methane into the atmosphere.

Death trap

Issue Date: May 15, 1998
nearly 63 miners died in a methane gas explosion which took place in the Skochinsky coalmine, Donetsk, Ukraine. This was one of the Ukraine's worst mining disasters. Some 600 persons were working when the methane blast ripped the pit. Rescue teams had to burrow through 300 metres of rubble, 1.2 kilometres below ground to reach survivors. Most of the miners died either in the explosion or suffocated.
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