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A carbon atom, bearing a formal charge of +1, single-bonded to each of five hydrogen atoms
"True" methanium, the metastable transitional state CH+
A carbon atom single-bonded to each of three hydrogen atoms and engaging in a three-center two-electron bond with two additional hydrogen atoms, the group as a whole bearing a +1 charge
Methanium, CH
Other names
carbonium (discouraged due to multiple definitions)[1]
3D model (JSmol)
  • true methanium: InChI=1S/CH5/h1H5/q+1
  • fluxional methanium: InChI=1S/CH5/c1-2/h2H,1H3/q+1
  • true methanium: [C+H5]
  • fluxional methanium: [CH3+].[HH]
Molar mass 17.050 g·mol−1
Conjugate base Methane
trigonal bipyramidal
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Infobox references

In chemistry, methanium is a complex positive ion with formula [CH
]+, namely a molecule with one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms and one hydrogen molecule, bearing a +1 electric charge. It is a superacid and one of the onium ions, indeed the simplest carbonium ion.

Methanium can be produced in the laboratory as a rarefied gas or as a dilute species in superacids. It was prepared for the first time in 1950 and published in 1952 by Victor Talrose and his assistant Anna Konstantinovna Lyubimova.[2][3] It occurs as an intermediate species in chemical reactions.

The methanium ion is named after methane (CH
), by analogy with the derivation of ammonium ion (NH+
) from ammonia (NH


Methanium can be visualised as a CH+
carbenium ion with a molecule of hydrogen interacting with the empty orbital in a 3-center-2-electron bond. The bonding electron pair in the H2 molecule is shared between the two hydrogen and one carbon atoms making up the 3-center-2-electron bond.[4]

The two hydrogen atoms in the H2 molecule can continuously exchange positions with the three hydrogen atoms in the CH+
ion (a conformation change called pseudorotation, specifically the Berry mechanism). The methanium ion is therefore considered a fluxional molecule. The energy barrier for the exchange is quite low and occurs even at very low temperatures.[5][6]

Infrared spectroscopy has been used to obtain information about the different conformations of the methanium ion.[7][8][9] The IR spectrum of plain methane has two C-H bands from symmetric and asymmetric stretching at around 3000 cm−1 and two bands around 1400 cm−1 from symmetrical and asymmetric bending vibrations. In the spectrum of CH+
three asymmetric stretching vibrations are present around 2800–3000 cm−1, a rocking vibration at 1300 cm−1, and a bending vibration at 1100 1300 cm−1.


Methanium can be prepared from methane by the action of very strong acids, such as fluoroantimonic acid (antimony pentafluoride SbF
in hydrogen fluoride HF).[10]

At about 270 Pa of pressure and ambient temperature, the methane ion CH+
will react with neutral methane to yield methanium and a methyl radical:[11]

+ CH
+ CH

Stability and reactions[edit]

The cations obtained by reaction of methane with SbF
+ HF are stabilized by interactions with the HF molecules.

At low pressures (around 1 mmHg) and ambient temperatures, methanium is unreactive towards neutral methane.[11]


  1. ^ Chemistry, International Union of Pure and Applied (2009). "carbonium ion". IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology. IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology. IUPAC. doi:10.1351/goldbook.C00839. ISBN 978-0-9678550-9-7. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  2. ^ V. L. Talrose and A. K. Lyubimova, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR 86, 909-912 (1952) (In Russian: Тальрозе, В. Л., and А. К. Любимова. "Вторичные процессы в ионном источнике масс-спектрометра." ДАН СССР 86 (1952): 909-912)
  3. ^ Nikolaev, Eugene (1998). "Victor Talrose: an appreciation". Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 33 (6): 499–501. Bibcode:1998JMSp...33..499N. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-9888(199806)33:6<499::AID-JMS684>3.0.CO;2-C. ISSN 1076-5174.
  4. ^ Rasul, Golam; Prakash, G.K. Surya; Olah, George A. (2011). "Comparative study of the hypercoordinate carbonium ions and their boron analogs: A challenge for spectroscopists". Chemical Physics Letters. 517 (1–3): 1–8. Bibcode:2011CPL...517....1R. doi:10.1016/j.cplett.2011.10.020.
  5. ^ Schreiner, Peter R.; Kim, Seung-Joon; Schaefer, Henry F.; von Ragué Schleyer, Paul (1993). "CH+
    : The never‐ending story or the final word?". Journal of Chemical Physics. 99 (5): 3716–3720. doi:10.1063/1.466147.
  6. ^ Müller, Hendrik; Kutzelnigg, Werner; Noga, Jozef; Klopper, Wim (1997). "CH5+: The story goes on. An explicitly correlated coupled-cluster study". Journal of Chemical Physics. 106 (5): 1863. Bibcode:1997JChPh.106.1863M. doi:10.1063/1.473340.
  7. ^ White, Edmund T.; Tang, Jian; Oka, Takeshi (1999). "CH+
    : The infrared spectrum observed". Science. 284 (5411): 135–7. Bibcode:1999Sci...284..135W. doi:10.1126/science.284.5411.135. PMID 10102811.
  8. ^ Oskar Asvany, Padma Kumar P; Redlich, Britta; Hegemann, Ilka; Schlemmer, Stephan; Marx, Dominik (2005). "Understanding the infrared spectrum of bare CH+
    ". Science. 309 (5738): 1219–1222. Bibcode:2005Sci...309.1219A. doi:10.1126/science.1113729. PMID 15994376. S2CID 28745636.
  9. ^ Huang, Xinchuan; McCoy, Anne B.; Bowman, Joel M.; Johnson, Lindsay M.; Savage, Chandra; Dong, Feng; Nesbitt, David J. (2006). "Quantum deconstruction of the infrared spectrum of CH+
    . Science. 311 (5757): 60–63. Bibcode:2006Sci...311...60H. doi:10.1126/science.1121166. PMID 16400143. S2CID 26158108.
  10. ^ Sommer, J.; Jost, R. (2000). "Carbenium and carbonium ions in liquid- and solid-superacid-catalyzed activation of small alkanes" (PDF). Pure and Applied Chemistry. 72 (12): 2309–2318. doi:10.1351/pac200072122309. S2CID 46627813.
  11. ^ a b Field, F. H.; Munson, M. S. B. (1965). "Reactions of gaseous ions. XIV. Mass spectrometric studies of methane at pressures to 2 Torr". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 87 (15): 3289–3294. doi:10.1021/ja01093a001.