A study of the electric discharge in methane



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When an electric current passes thru a gas, various and distinctive phenomena dependent upon current, gas pressure, shape, composition and position of the electrodes and composition of the gas, are observable. These quantities determine the mechanism by which electric charge is transferred thru the gas and likewise the effect which the charge will have upon the gas. Numerous investigations have been made at low pressures; that is, below one hundredth of an atmosphere, since here the molecules are so far distant from one another that the behavior of individual ones is observable and results more readily interpretable. Considerable work has likewise been done on sparks and arcs at atmospheric pressure and above, but the results have never been interpreted by any theory, and such mathematical treatment as exists deals only with empirical facts. In the range of intermediate pressures almost no work has been done for a number of reasons. In this range, for the majority of gases, the transition from glow to arc discharge occurs, and at the same time, the pressures are too high to obtain data upon individual particles, yet are not sufficiently high to permit easy manipulation. Nevertheless, this transition range is an interesting one and close investigation should yield information of great value as to the nature of the electric discharge. This investigation was undertaken in the hope of obtaining some insight into the mechanism by which current passes thru a gas at intermediate pressures; likewise, to study the effect of the arc upon methane and to determine the decomposition rate of methane under these conditions