When the first methane gas detector was launched in 2011, it was hailed as a milestone in the field of fossil detection.
However, as the gas was detected, it revealed nothing about its origins or origin of origin.
But now, with the detection of methane in the air, the story is a bit different.
In a new paper, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin have shown that this methane gas is actually the result of a natural process that is taking place in the earth’s atmosphere.
“Methane is a major component of the atmosphere and a large part of the planet’s energy production,” said Michael Rauch, an assistant professor in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the paper’s lead author.
“The methane is a key part of our climate system, and our understanding of how methane behaves is fundamental to understanding how the climate is changing.”
Methanogenic emissions from fossil fuel burning have become increasingly common over the last decade, with an estimated 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels.
A key contributor to this is the process of methane formation.
Methane is an organic compound, consisting of a carbon atom with two hydrogen atoms attached.
The molecule is broken down in the Earth’s atmosphere, and is released in a variety of ways, including through the burning process of coal, natural gas, oil, and biomass.
The discovery of methane gas, however, has been a little more elusive.
The researchers from UT Austin, who conducted the research, suspected that methane may have formed in the lower atmosphere, but it was unclear how it came to be in the upper atmosphere.
In order to solve this, the researchers used an automated methane detector at the University, which was installed at the International Center for Nuclear Research in India (ICNR).
The detector has a resolution of 20 microns.
“The goal was to find out if we could detect methane in methane from the upper troposphere, or in the methane that’s emitted from the atmosphere,” Rauach said.
“We found that it was possible, but not exactly what we expected.”
In addition, the detector also detected methane, but the researchers found that this emission was not due to a natural event.
“There are many processes that are contributing to the methane emission,” Rauerch said.
“Mostly it is due to human activities like deforestation, and also the burning, which is the major contributor to methane emissions.”
This is why the researchers conducted a test on the detector in order to see if it was capable of detecting methane from methane in lower atmosphere.
The test showed that it detected methane at levels that were higher than what was expected for methane.
The team is now working to identify a specific source of methane to test in order, in the future, to determine the exact source of the methane in question.
“What we’re trying to do is to look for methane in a large range of atmospheric conditions, and to make sure that the methane is produced naturally, and not caused by human activities,” Rausch said, adding that it is also possible that the researchers could use the methane detection as a basis to develop other instruments that could detect other gases like nitrous oxide, methane, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
“Our work on the methane detector is not just an example of how we can detect methane, we are doing something that’s important for understanding the Earth system, the climate system,” Rae said.
In the future the team is working to develop an instrument that could also detect methane from CO2.
“That could be useful for determining the origin of methane,” Raunch said.
“Our work is a demonstration of how the methane detectors can be useful to scientists and researchers,” Räch said in a press release.
“It is important to be able to quickly identify the source of an emission, and this is one of the main reasons why the methane sensors are important.”