Lithium

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Lithium
Lithium block

Lithium, having the symbol Li and atomic number 3, is a chemical element. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal that is located in group 1 of the periodic table, with helium and beryllium as its neighbors. Lithium is the lightest solid element and has a density about half that of water. Its name comes from the Greek word “lithos,” meaning stone, which refers to its discovery from a mineral source.

Lithium was discovered in 1817 by Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson while analyzing the mineral petalite. It was later isolated in its elemental form by William Thomas Brande in 1821 through the electrolysis of lithium oxide, a process that had previously been used by Humphry Davy to isolate other alkali metals such as sodium and potassium. Lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and it easily reacts with water to produce hydrogen gas. It has a low melting point and boiling point, making it useful for various applications in industry and scientific research.

Lithium has numerous applications in various fields, including energy storage, pharmaceuticals, and ceramics. One of its most well-known uses is in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which power many electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops. Lithium is also used in mood stabilizers for the treatment of bipolar disorder, and as an alloying agent in the production of lightweight metals like aluminum, commonly used in the aerospace industry.

Lithium has two naturally occurring stable isotopes, lithium-6 and lithium-7, with natural abundances of 7.59% and 92.41%, respectively. Lithium compounds have various industrial applications. For example, lithium hydroxide is used in air purification and in the production of greases and lubricants. Lithium chloride, on the other hand, is commonly used as a desiccant. Lithium is also used as a coolant in nuclear reactors due to its high thermal conductivity and low atomic weight.

On periodic table

group 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
period
1 1
H
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Hydrogen
2
He
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Helium
2 3
Li
Lithium
4
Be
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Beryllium
5
B
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Boron
6
C
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Carbon
7
N
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Nitrogen
8
O
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Oxygen
9
F
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Fluorine
10
Ne
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Neon
3 11
Na
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Sodium
12
Mg
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Magnesium
13
Al
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Aluminium
14
Si
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Silicon
15
P
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Phosphorus
16
S
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Sulfur
17
Cl
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Chlorine
18
Ar
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Argon
4 19
K
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Potassium
20
Ca
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Calcium
21
Sc
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Scandium
22
Ti
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Titanium
23
V
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Vanadium
24
Cr
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Chromium
25
Mn
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Manganese
26
Fe
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Iron
27
Co
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Cobalt
28
Ni
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Nickel
29
Cu
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Copper
30
Zn
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Zinc
31
Ga
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Gallium
32
Ge
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Germanium
33
As
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Arsenic
34
Se
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Selenium
35
Br
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Bromine
36
Kr
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Krypton
5 37
Rb
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Rubidium
38
Sr
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Strontium
39
Y
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Yttrium
40
Zr
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Zirconium
41
Nb
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Niobium
42
Mo
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Molybdenum
43
Tc
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Technetium
44
Ru
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Ruthenium
45
Rh
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Rhodium
46
Pd
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Palladium
47
Ag
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Silver
48
Cd
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Cadmium
49
In
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Indium
50
Sn
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Tin
51
Sb
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Antimony
52
Te
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Tellurium
53
I
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Iodine
54
Xe
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Xenon
6 55
Cs
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Caesium
56
Ba
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Barium
72
Hf
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Hafnium
73
Ta
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Tantalum
74
W
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Tungsten
75
Re
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Rhenium
76
Os
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Osmium
77
Ir
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Iridium
78
Pt
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Platinum
79
Au
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Gold
80
Hg
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Mercury
81
Tl
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Thallium
82
Pb
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Lead
83
Bi
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Bismuth
84
Po
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Polonium
85
At
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Astatine
86
Rn
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Radon
7 87
Fr
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Francium
88
Ra
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Radium
104
Rf
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Rutherfordium
105
Db
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Dubnium
106
Sg
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Seaborgium
107
Bh
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Bohrium
108
Hs
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Hassium
109
Mt
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Meitnerium
110
Ds
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Darmstadtium
111
Rg
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Roentgenium
112
Cn
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Copernicium
113
Nh
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Nihonium
114
Fl
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Flerovium
115
Mc
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Moscovium
116
Lv
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Livermorium
117
Ts
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Tennessine
118
Og
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Oganesson
57
La
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Lanthanum
58
Ce
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Cerium
59
Pr
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Praseodymium
60
Nd
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Neodymium
61
Pm
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Promethium
62
Sm
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Samarium
63
Eu
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Europium
64
Gd
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Gadolinium
65
Tb
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Terbium
66
Dy
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Dysprosium
67
Ho
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Holmium
68
Er
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Erbium
69
Tm
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Thulium
70
Yb
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Ytterbium
71
Lu
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Lutetium
89
Ac
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Actinium
90
Th
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Thorium
91
Pa
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Protactinium
92
U
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Uranium
93
Np
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Neptunium
94
Pu
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Plutonium
95
Am
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Americium
96
Cm
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Curium
97
Bk
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Berkelium
98
Cf
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Californium
99
Es
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Einsteinium
100
Fm
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Fermium
101
Md
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Mendelevium
102
No
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Nobelium
103
Lr
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Lawrencium
– s block

On the periodic table, lithium is located in the first column and second row, belongs to the alkali metal group, and is classified as an s-block element.

Element information

Lithium Element
Lithium appearance | source: Wikipedia
Lithium Periodic Table
Lithium location on periodic table
Lithium is located in the first column below hydrogen on the periodic table.
Origin of name Greek word “lithos” (which means stone)
Symbol Li
Atomic number (Z) 3
Atomic mass 6.941 u
Block s-block
Group 1
Period 2
Classification Alkali metal
Atomic radius 152 pm
Covalent radius 128±7 pm
Van der Waals radius 182 pm
Melting point 180.50 ℃, 356.90 ℉, 453.65 K
Boiling point 1330 ℃, 2426 ℉, 1603 K
Electron configuration [He] 2s1
Electrons per shell 2, 1
Learn how to draw: Lithium Bohr model
Crystal structure Body-centered cubic (bcc)
Phase at r.t Solid
Density near r.t 0.534 g/cm3
Main isotopes Lithium-6, Lithium-7
Natural occurrence Primordial
Oxidation state +1
Electronegativity (Pauling scale) 0.98
Protons
Neutrons
Electrons
3
4
3
Valence electrons 1
Learn how to find: Lithium valence electrons
CAS number 7439-93-2
Discovered by Johan August Arfwedson in 1817

History

Johan August Arfwedson | source: Wikipedia

In the 1790s, the first lithium mineral, petalite LiAlSi4O10, was discovered on the Swedish island of Utö by Brazilian scientist José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva. Then, in 1817, Johan August Arfvedson of Stockholm examined it and made a groundbreaking discovery: it contained lithium, a metal that was previously unknown. Arfwedson continued his research and later found that this same element was also present in the minerals spodumene and lepidolite.

Arfwedson and Christian Gmelin both made attempts to extract pure lithium from its salts, with Gmelin first observing in 1818 that flames produced by lithium salts have a vivid red color. However, their efforts were unsuccessful. It wasn’t until 1821 that William Thomas Brande succeeded in isolating the element by electrolyzing lithium oxide. This technique was already known to chemist Sir Humphry Davy, who had used it to separate other alkali metals such as sodium and potassium.

Robert Bunsen and Augustus Matthiessen made a significant breakthrough in 1855 by electrolyzing lithium chloride to produce more lithium. This discovery led to the German company Metallgesellschaft AG producing lithium on a large scale starting in 1923, using a liquid solution of lithium chloride and potassium chloride. Fast forward to 1949, when Australian psychiatrist John Cade is credited with reintroducing and popularizing the use of lithium to treat mania. Its potential to stabilize mood and treat both mania and depression quickly gained popularity in Europe and the US in the mid-20th century.

Occurrence

Lithium make up less than 0.03% of the Earth’s crust | source: Visual Capitalist

According to modern cosmological theory, lithium is believed to have been one of three elements synthesized during the Big Bang, along with beryllium and boron. Lithium is found in brown dwarf substellar objects and some irregular orange stars as well. Despite its widespread distribution throughout the planet, lithium does not exist in an elemental state naturally due to its high reactivity. Lithium is present in the Earth’s crust at a concentration of roughly 20 milligrams per kilogram, accounting for only 0.002% of the Earth’s crust. This places it as the 25th most abundant element on the planet.

While lithium is a relatively rare element, it can be found in many types of rocks and some brines. However, its abundance in these sources is often limited and only present in very small quantities. Though there are abundant lithium mineral and brine resources, only a small percentage of them are commercially viable. Many of these resources are either too small or of insufficient quality to be of practical use.[1]

Lithium can be found in trace amounts in a wide variety of organisms, including plants, plankton, and invertebrates, with concentrations ranging from 69 to 5,760 parts per billion (ppb). While vertebrates have slightly lower concentrations of lithium, it is still present in almost all bodily fluids and tissues, typically ranging from 21 to 763 ppb.

Production

Lithium metal is typically produced through the process of electrolyzing a mixture of fused lithium chloride and potassium chloride at a temperature of around 450 ℃. However, the majority of the world’s lithium supply is obtained from brines and ores. As of 2018, several countries are major producers of lithium, with the top five being Australia, Chile, China, Argentina, and Zimbabwe.

Lithium mine production (tonnes)
Rank
Country
2018
2019
2020
2021
1 Australia 58,800 42,000 40,000 55,000
2 Chile 17,000 18,000 18,000 26,000
3 China 7,100 7,500 14,000 14,000
4 Argentina 6,400 6,400 6,200 6,200
5 Brazil 300 300 1,900 1,500
6 Zimbabwe 1,600 1,600 1,200 1,200
7 Portugal 800 1,200 900 900
8 Namibia 500
8 Bolivia 540

In the United States, lithium is primarily extracted from brine pools in Nevada. However, as of 2019, the top four lithium-producing countries in the world are Australia, Chile, China, and Argentina, according to the US Geological Survey. The Lithium Triangle, which includes the countries of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina, is a region known for its significant lithium reserves. In fact, it’s estimated that over 75% of the world’s known lithium reserves are located in the Lithium Triangle.

In July 2018, a high-grade lithium deposit of 2.5 million tonnes and 124 million pounds of uranium resources were discovered in the Falchani hard rock deposit in the Puno region.[2] Historically, lithium and its compounds were primarily isolated and mined from hard rock deposits. However, by the 1990s, mineral springs, brine pools, and brine deposits had become the dominant sources for lithium production.

Properties

Physical properties

Density, melting point, and boiling point

Lithium, among the alkali metals, has the lowest density of 0.534 g/cm3, as well as the highest melting point at 180.50 ℃ and the highest boiling point at 1330 ℃.

Phase change transformation

Similar to sodium, lithium experiences diffusionless phase change transformations below 70 K.

Chemical properties

Reactivity

Lithium is much more reactive when it is molten than when it is solid. Although lithium is the least reactive of the alkali metals, it is still a highly reactive element.

Oxidation

When cut, lithium’s silvery-white color immediately turns gray | source: Science Stock Footage

When freshly cut, lithium has a shiny, silvery-white appearance, but it quickly tarnishes to a dull gray color as it reacts with oxygen to form a layer of lithium oxide on its surface.

Conductivity

Lithium is a good conductor of heat and electricity.

Crystal system

Lithium possesses a rhombohedral crystal system at 4.2 K, which changes to a face-centered cubic and then a body-centered cubic at higher temperatures.

Other properties

Floatation

Along with sodium and potassium, lithium is one of only three metals that can float on water.

Applications

Industrial

Grease made with lithium soap is a popular and versatile lubricant, known for its ability to thicken oils and perform well at high temperatures.

Lithium’s high specific heat capacity value of 3.58 kilojoules per kilogram-kelvin makes it a preferred coolant for heat transfer applications.[3][4]

Foundries often use lithium compounds as additives (fluxes) to foundry sand for iron casting to reduce veining and improve the quality of the castings.

Metallic lithium is commonly used as a flux for welding and soldering, due to its ability to promote the fusing of metals and prevent the formation of oxides by absorbing impurities.

Lithium chloride and lithium bromide are frequently utilized as desiccants in gas streams, thanks to their hygroscopic properties that make them effective at removing moisture from the air.

Military and aerospace

In thermonuclear weapons, lithium-6 containing lithium hydride is utilized as a fuel for the fusion stage of the bomb.

Lithium hydroxide and lithium peroxide are commonly used as air purifiers in confined spaces such as submarines and spacecraft to remove carbon dioxide and maintain the quality of the air.

Pyrotechnics

Lithium compounds are often used as pyrotechnic colorants and oxidizers in various applications such as red fireworks and flares. When ignited, these compounds emit a vibrant red hue, making them popular in pyrotechnic shows.

Electronics

Lithium-ion battery | source: iStock

Lithium is primarily used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in mobile phones and electric vehicles. There are various types of lithium-based rechargeable batteries, including lithium-ion polymer, lithium iron phosphate, and nanowire batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have become the industry standard for portable electronics, with around 90% of laptops and 60% of cell phones using them.

In addition to its use in batteries, lithium has been found to aid in the production of silicon nano-welds in electronic components for batteries and other devices.

Medical

Lithium is an effective treatment for bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by manic and depressive episodes. Studies have shown that lithium therapy has no significant impact on a patient’s body weight, making it a preferred treatment option for those concerned about weight gain.[5]

Organic synthesis

Lithium compounds are widely used as reagents in the preparation of organic compounds. Some common examples include lithium triethylborohydride, lithium aluminum hydride, n-butyllithium, and tert-butyllithium.

Optical

Lithium fluoride crystals, produced artificially, are transparent and clear, and are commonly used in optics for infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) applications due to their excellent transmittance properties.

Interesting facts

Lithium has the lowest density of all metals, with a density that is approximately half that of water, causing it to float on water.

Lithium is a soft metal that can be easily cut with a knife.

When lithium comes into contact with air, it burns with a red-colored flame.

Lithium is not found in nature in its free form and is only found in igneous rocks.

Due to its vigorous reaction with air and water, lithium is typically stored in oil to prevent its reaction with water.

Related

More elements

s block
p block
d block
f block
Barium Aluminium Bohrium Actinium
Beryllium Antimony Cadmium Americium
Caesium Argon Chromium Berkelium
Calcium Arsenic Cobalt Californium
Francium Astatine Copernicium Cerium
Helium Bismuth Copper Curium
Hydrogen Boron Darmstadtium Dysprosium
Lithium Bromine Dubnium Einsteinium
Magnesium Carbon Gold Erbium
Potassium Chlorine Hafnium Europium
Radium Flerovium Hassium Fermium
Rubidium Fluorine Iridium Gadolinium
Sodium Gallium Iron Holmium
Strontium Germanium Lawrencium Lanthanum
Indium Lutetium Mendelevium
Iodine Manganese Neodymium
Krypton Meitnerium Neptunium
Lead Mercury Nobelium
Livermorium Molybdenum Plutonium
Moscovium Nickel Praseodymium
Neon Niobium Promethium
Nihonium Osmium Protactinium
Nitrogen Palladium Samarium
Oganesson Platinum Terbium
Oxygen Rhenium Thorium
Phosphorus Rhodium Thulium
Polonium Roentgenium Uranium
Radon Ruthenium Ytterbium
Selenium Rutherfordium
Silicon Scandium
Sulfur Seaborgium
Tellurium Silver
Tennessine Tantalum
Thallium Technetium
Tin Titanium
Xenon Tungsten
Vanadium
Yttrium
Zinc
Zirconium

References

  1. The Trouble with Lithium 2 – Lomiko Metals
  2. Plateau Energy Metals Peru unit finds large lithium resources – Reuters
  3. SPECIFIC HEAT OF SOLIDS – Internet Archive
  4. LITHIUM LITERATURE REVIEW: LITHIUM’S PROPERTIES AND INTERACTIONS – OSTI.GOV (.gov)
  5. Lithium therapy and weight change in people with bipolar disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis – ScienceDirect

External links

Deep

Learnool.com was founded by Deep Rana, who is a mechanical engineer by profession and a blogger by passion. He has a good conceptual knowledge on different educational topics and he provides the same on this website. He loves to learn something new everyday and believes that the best utilization of free time is developing a new skill.

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