A closer look at Lithium (Li)


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Michiel Bester | Updated: June 2022

Lithium. The lightest metal in the universe. Are we running out and why is it so important that we don’t?

Lithium is the third element on the periodic table of elements and falls into the alkali metals group (I). Lithium is also the lightest metal on the periodic table. It is so light that it can float on water. We use the lithium element for a number of important use cases, but did you know that it can be used to treat serious health issues?

Properties of the lithium element:

Atomic Number:3
Atomic Symbol:Li
Atomic Weight (amu):6.941
Electronegativity:0.98
Melting point:180.54°C | 356.97°F | 453.69K
Boiling point:1342.00°C | 2447.60°F | 1615.15K

What does Lithium look like?

Lithium is a soft shiny-silvery metal, that is usually stored in kerosene or mineral oil, to prevent or limit the reaction with oxygen in the air. Uncut lithium is usually a dull grey colour because it is covered in a layer of oxide and nitride.

Where can Lithium be found?

Most of the world’s lithium is extracted from rocks or brine. Chile has the world’s largest known lithium reserve at 8 million tonnes, more than Australia (2.7 million tonnes), Argentina (2 million tonnes) and China (1 million tonnes). It is estimated that there are about 14 million tonnes of lithium to be mined, which is 165 times the amount produced in 2018.

Does that mean we can run out of Lithium?

According to many industry professionals, such as Elon Musk. There is plenty of lithium element on the earth to meet our demands, but the production and refinement process of this element is slow and struggles to meet the current demand. Better mining technology and more efficient recycling methods can almost guarantee that the earth will not run out of Lithium any time soon.

Can Lithium be recycled?

Lithium can be recycled and it is highly recommended that we recycle lithium-ion batteries, but the process is complicated, which explains the lack of recycling factories around the world. This poses a serious obstacle for those who believe that lithium-ion batteries are the future of energy storage.

Who discovered the lithium element?

The most important use for lithium today is in batteries. In a world that is striving toward a green and carbon-free future, battery power and technology is more important than it has ever been. Lithium is an essential element in the production of rechargeable batteries.

Lithium is used in alloys with other metals to make them lighter in applications such as aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.

What can Lithium be used for?

Lithium chloride is one of the most hygroscopic materials and is therefore used in airconditioners and industrial drying systems.

Lithium stearate is used as a general-purpose lubricating grease.

Lithium carbonate is used as a medication for Manic-depressive disorder, it is however unclear how exactly this compound does its magical work.

Lithium hydride is used to store hydrogen that is intended to be used as fuel.

Is Lithium dangerous

Lithium, like many other medications, is toxic. The ingestion of lithium does have toxic side effects, like tremors, diarrhoea, vomiting and impaired memory. Ingestion of small amounts of lithium should not be fatal if immediate medical attention is sought. Crude lithium metal should never be ingested and can result in lithium overdose.

Lithium is used to treat phycological disorders and should only be ingested under strict supervision by medical doctors.

Interesting facts about Lithium

  • Lithium is the least dense solid elements
  • Lithium grease found its use as a machine lubricant during WWII.
  • Both sides of the Cold War used lithium for nuclear weapons production
  • The development of lithium-ion batteries had the lithium market recovering in the 2000s
  • Lithium is so soft that it can be cut with a butter knife.

What compounds are formed with Lithium?

As mentioned in the uses of lithium above lithium forms many useful compounds. The most popular of these are:

  • Lithium Hydroxide
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Lithium Acetate
  • Lithium Fluoride

Funny Lithium Jokes, Puns and One-Liners

What do you call someone who says Lithium and Argon bonded. Li-Ar

What are the elements of life? Lithium + Iron = (Li) +(Fe)