What is Lithium
Lithium is a soft, silver-white and light alkali metal with an atomic number of 3, and is represented by the Li as a chemical symbol. It is the least dense sold element in existence and lightest metal. It was discovered in the 1800s and was first called lithion meaning stone since it is found in rocks. In order to keep it in its natural form, it is stored in mineral oils.
Properties of lithium
- It is highly inflammable and reactive just like the alkali group members.
- A fresh cut surface has a metallic look but reacts quickly with air and turns dull to silver-grey then black.
- Since it is highly reactive, it doesn’t occur naturally in the pure state.
- It occurs in ionic state in compounds.
- Found in several pegmatite minerals and given its high solubility in water, is found in brines and clays in ocean water.
- It is isolated commercially from lithium salt mixtures like lithium chloride and potassium chloride.
- It has very unstable nuclei since the isotopes have very low near binding energies. Due to this, it is very uncommon in the solar system.
- Due to its slow melting attributes, its commonly used as a heat transfer medium since it will hold high temperatures.
- With the high electrochemical potential, lithium qualifies as a good energy storage component hence the use in batteries.
Uses of lithium
It is applied in nuclear physics due to its near unstable nuclei. In 1932, a nuclear reaction was done transmuting lithium to hydrogen, and lithium deuteride is used as fusion fuel for thermonuclear weapons. Industrially, lithium is used in heat resistant glass and ceramics, aircraft body alloy manufacture. Lithium batteries and lithium-ion batteries consume more than half the lithium worldwide.
All organisms have trace amounts of lithium in them, but its actual relevance are yet o be discovered. However, medically lithium ion is used in the form of it salts as a mood altering drug since the ion has neurological effects in humans. it affects the neurotransmitters in the brain correcting the balance. It also treats headaches but administration must be closely monitored due to its potential danger.
In enclosed vessels like submarines and aircrafts, lithium is used to purify air by trapping carbon dioxide, and is applied in fireworks since the lithium metal produces a reddish flame and is highly flammable. However, glasses made from lithium carbonate are used in oven ware due to their ability to absorb high amounts of heat.
Lithium has been used very widely in the life of humans almost in every sector. Medically, its salt is used for treating mood disorder, the batteries we use in watches and other electronic use lithium to store energy. In nuclear science and aircraft as well as in the kitchen lithium is applied.