Facts About Lithium

Atomic Number: 3
Atomic Symbol: Li
Atomic Weight: 6.941
Melting Point: 356.9 F (180.5 C)
Boiling Point: 2,447.6 F (1,342 C)

Word origin: Lithium is derived from lithos, the Greek word for stone.

Discovery: Lithium was discovered in 1817 by Johan August Arfwedson.

Properties of lithium

Lithium is a member of the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is silvery in appearance but loses its luster and corrodes when exposed to moist air. Lithium is the lightest of all metals. At about half the density of water, it floats on water, but it also reacts to it, forming hydrogen gas and lithium hydroxide. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

When put to a flame, lithium imparts a beautiful crimson color, but when the metal burns strongly, the flame is a dazzling white.

Lithium does not occur freely in nature, but it is found in compounds in igneous rocks and in many mineral springs. Some of the minerals that contain lithium are lepidolite, spodumene, petalite and amblygonite. Lithium is also found in large deposits of quadramene in North Carolina, and it is being recovered from brines (saltwater pools) in Nevada and Searles Lake in California.

Lithium is also produced via electrolysis from fused chloride.

Uses of lithium

Lithium has the highest specific heat of any solid element and is ideal for heat transfer applications, although it is highly corrosive and requires careful handling. Because of its high electrochemical potential, lithium is used in some batteries. Ceramics and specialized glass, like that of the 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar, contain lithium as a minor ingredient.

Lithium compounds have a variety of uses. Lithium chloride is one of the most absorbent materials available, and it, as well as lithium bromide, is used in air conditioning and industrial drying systems. For all-purpose and high-temperature lubricants, lithium stearate fits the bill.

Lithium also has some medical applications, as lithium carbonate is used for the treatment of bipolar disease and other mental illnesses.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

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