Lithium

Lithium

Overview
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 that belongs to the alkali metal
Alkali metal
The alkali metals are a series of chemical elements in the periodic table. In the modern IUPAC nomenclature, the alkali metals comprise the group 1 elements, along with hydrogen. The alkali metals are lithium , sodium , potassium , rubidium , caesium , and francium...

 group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol
Chemical symbol
A chemical symbol is a 1- or 2-letter internationally agreed code for a chemical element, usually derived from the name of the element, often in Latin. Only the first letter is capitalised...

 Li, and it has the atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 3. Under standard conditions
Standard conditions for temperature and pressure
Standard condition for temperature and pressure are standard sets of conditions for experimental measurements established to allow comparisons to be made between different sets of data...

 it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

 element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable. For this reason, it is typically stored in mineral oil
Mineral oil
A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable source, particularly a distillate of petroleum....

. When cut open, lithium exhibits a metallic luster, but contact with moist air corrodes
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 the surface quickly to a dull silvery gray, then black, tarnish.
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Encyclopedia
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 that belongs to the alkali metal
Alkali metal
The alkali metals are a series of chemical elements in the periodic table. In the modern IUPAC nomenclature, the alkali metals comprise the group 1 elements, along with hydrogen. The alkali metals are lithium , sodium , potassium , rubidium , caesium , and francium...

 group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol
Chemical symbol
A chemical symbol is a 1- or 2-letter internationally agreed code for a chemical element, usually derived from the name of the element, often in Latin. Only the first letter is capitalised...

 Li, and it has the atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 3. Under standard conditions
Standard conditions for temperature and pressure
Standard condition for temperature and pressure are standard sets of conditions for experimental measurements established to allow comparisons to be made between different sets of data...

 it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

 element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable. For this reason, it is typically stored in mineral oil
Mineral oil
A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable source, particularly a distillate of petroleum....

. When cut open, lithium exhibits a metallic luster, but contact with moist air corrodes
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 the surface quickly to a dull silvery gray, then black, tarnish. Because of its high reactivity, lithium never occurs free in nature, and instead, only appears in compounds
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

, which are usually ionic
Ionic compound
In chemistry, an ionic compound is a chemical compound in which ions are held together in a lattice structure by ionic bonds. Usually, the positively charged portion consists of metal cations and the negatively charged portion is an anion or polyatomic ion. Ions in ionic compounds are held together...

. Lithium occurs in a number of pegmatitic
Pegmatite
A pegmatite is a very crystalline, intrusive igneous rock composed of interlocking crystals usually larger than 2.5 cm in size; such rocks are referred to as pegmatitic....

 mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s, but due to its solubility as an ion is present in ocean water and is commonly obtained from brine
Brine
Brine is water, saturated or nearly saturated with salt .Brine is used to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, in a process known as brining . Brine is also commonly used to age Halloumi and Feta cheeses, or for pickling foodstuffs, as a means of preserving them...

s and clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

s. On a commercial scale, lithium is isolated electrolytically
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 from a mixture of lithium chloride
Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride is a chemical compound with the formula LiCl. The salt is a typical ionic compound, although the small size of the Li+ ion gives rise to properties not seen for other alkali metal chlorides, such as extraordinary solubility in polar solvents and its hygroscopic...

 and potassium chloride
Potassium chloride
The chemical compound potassium chloride is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. In its pure state, it is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance, with a crystal structure that cleaves easily in three directions. Potassium chloride crystals are...

.

The nuclei
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

 of lithium verge on instability, since the two stable lithium isotope
Isotope
Isotopes are variants of atoms of a particular chemical element, which have differing numbers of neutrons. Atoms of a particular element by definition must contain the same number of protons but may have a distinct number of neutrons which differs from atom to atom, without changing the designation...

s found in nature have among the lowest binding energies per nucleon
Nucleon
In physics, a nucleon is a collective name for two particles: the neutron and the proton. These are the two constituents of the atomic nucleus. Until the 1960s, the nucleons were thought to be elementary particles...

 of all stable nuclide
Nuclide
A nuclide is an atomic species characterized by the specific constitution of its nucleus, i.e., by its number of protons Z, its number of neutrons N, and its nuclear energy state....

s. Because of its relative nuclear instability, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements even though the nuclei are very light in atomic weight. For related reasons, lithium has important links to nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

. The transmutation
Nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or isotope into another. In other words, atoms of one element can be changed into atoms of other element by 'transmutation'...

 of lithium atoms to helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 in 1932 was the first fully man-made nuclear reaction
Nuclear reaction
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, a nuclear reaction is semantically considered to be the process in which two nuclei, or else a nucleus of an atom and a subatomic particle from outside the atom, collide to produce products different from the initial particles...

, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 fuel in staged thermonuclear weapon
Teller-Ulam design
The Teller–Ulam design is the nuclear weapon design concept used in most of the world's nuclear weapons. It is colloquially referred to as "the secret of the hydrogen bomb" because it employs hydrogen fusion, though in most applications the bulk of its destructive energy comes from uranium fission,...

s.

Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 and ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

s, high strength-to-weight alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

s used in aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

, lithium batteries
Lithium battery
Lithium batteries are disposable batteries that have lithium metal or lithium compounds as an anode. Depending on the design and chemical compounds used, lithium cells can produce voltages from 1.5 V to about 3.7 V, over twice the voltage of an ordinary zinc–carbon battery or alkaline battery...

 and lithium-ion batteries. These uses consume more than half of lithium production.

Trace amounts of lithium are present in all organisms. The element serves no apparent vital biological function, since animals and plants survive in good health without it. Nonvital functions have not been ruled out. The lithium ion
Ion
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

 Li+ administered as any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood-stabilizing
Mood stabilizer
A mood stabilizer is a psychiatric medication used to treat mood disorders characterized by intense and sustained mood shifts, typically bipolar disorder.-Uses:...

 drug due to neurological effects
Lithium pharmacology
Lithium pharmacology refers to use of the lithium ion, Li+, as a drug. A number of chemical salts of lithium are used medically as a mood stabilizing drug, primarily in the treatment of bipolar disorder, where they have a role in the treatment of depression and particularly of mania, both acutely...

 of the ion in the human body.

Atomic and physical



Like the other alkali metal
Alkali metal
The alkali metals are a series of chemical elements in the periodic table. In the modern IUPAC nomenclature, the alkali metals comprise the group 1 elements, along with hydrogen. The alkali metals are lithium , sodium , potassium , rubidium , caesium , and francium...

s, lithium has a single valence electron
Valence electron
In chemistry, valence electrons are the electrons of an atom that can participate in the formation of chemical bonds with other atoms. Valence electrons are the "own" electrons, present in the free neutral atom, that combine with valence electrons of other atoms to form chemical bonds. In a single...

 that is easily given up to form a cation. Because of this, it is a good conductor of heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 and electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 as well as a highly reactive element, though the least reactive of the even-more highly reactive alkali metals. Lithium's low reactivity compared to other alkali metals is thought to be due to the proximity of its valence electron to its nucleus
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

 (the remaining two electrons in lithium's 1s orbital and are much lower in energy, and therefore they do not participate in chemical bonds).

Lithium metal is soft enough to be cut with a knife. When cut, it possesses a silvery-white color that quickly changes to gray due to oxidation. While it has one of the lowest melting points among all metals (180 °C), it has the highest melting and boiling points of the alkali metals.

It is the lightest metal in the periodic table, so light that it can float on water and even on oil, and it is one of three metals that can. It has a very low density, of approximately 0.534 g/cm3, which gives sticks of the metal a similar heft to dowel
Dowel
A dowel is a solid cylindrical rod, usually made of wood, plastic or metal. In its original manufactured form, dowel is called dowel rod.Dowel rod is employed in numerous, diverse applications. It is used to form axles in toys, as detents on gymnastics grips, as knitting needles, as structural...

s of a medium density wood, such as pine. It floats on water but also reacts with it.
It is the least dense of all elements that are not gasses at room temperature. The next lightest element is over 60% more dense (potassium, at 0.862 g/cm3). Furthermore, aside from helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 and hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, it is the least dense element in a solid or liquid state, being only 2/3 as dense as liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at a very low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colourless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.4...

 (0.808 g/cm3).Densities for all the gaseous elements can be obtained at Airliquide.com

Lithium's coefficient of thermal expansion is twice that of aluminum and almost four times that of iron. It has the highest specific heat capacity of any solid element. Lithium is superconductive below 400 μK at standard pressure and at higher temperatures (more than 9 K) at very high pressures (>20 GPa) At temperatures below 70 K, lithium, like sodium, undergoes diffusionless phase change transformations
Diffusionless transformations
A diffusionless transformation is a phase change that occurs without the long-range diffusion of atoms but rather by some form of cooperative, homogeneous movement of many atoms that results in a change in crystal structure. These movements are small, usually less than the interatomic distances,...

. At 4.2 K it has a rhombohedral crystal system
Rhombohedral crystal system
In crystallography, the trigonal crystal system is one of the seven crystal systems, and the rhombohedral lattice system is one of the seven lattice systems...

 (with a nine-layer repeat spacing); at higher temperatures it transforms to face-centered cubic and then body-centered cubic. At liquid-helium temperatures (4 K) the rhombohedral structure is the most prevalent. Multiple allotropic forms have been reported for lithium at high pressures.

Chemistry and compounds


Lithium reacts with water easily, but with noticeably less energy than other alkali metals do. The reaction forms hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 gas and lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol...

 in aqueous solution. Because of its reactivity with water, lithium is usually stored under cover of a viscous hydrocarbon, often petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, white petrolatum or soft paraffin, CAS number 8009-03-8, is a semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons , originally promoted as a topical ointment for its healing properties...

. Though the heavier alkali metals can be stored in less dense substances, such as mineral oil
Mineral oil
A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable source, particularly a distillate of petroleum....

, lithium is not dense enough to be fully submerged in these liquids. In moist air, lithium rapidly tarnishes to form a black coating of lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol...

 (LiOH and LiOH·H2O), lithium nitride
Lithium nitride
Lithium nitride is a compound of lithium and nitrogen with the formula Li3N. It is the only stable alkali metal nitride...

 (Li3N) and lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.-Properties:Like almost...

 (Li2CO3, the result of a secondary reaction between LiOH and CO2
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

).


When placed over a flame, lithium compounds give off a striking crimson
Crimson
Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color. It is originally the color of the dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now also used as a generic term for those slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose; besides crimson itself, these colors include...

 color, but when it burns strongly the flame becomes a brilliant silver. Lithium will ignite and burn in oxygen when exposed to water or water vapors. Lithium is inflammable, and it is potentially explosive when exposed to air and especially to water, though less so than the other alkali metals. The lithium-water reaction at normal temperatures is brisk but not violent, the hydrogen produced will not ignite on its own. As with all alkali metals, lithium fires are difficult to extinguish, requiring dry powder fire extinguishers, specifically Class D type (see Types of extinguishing agents). Lithium is the only metal which reacts with nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 under normal conditions
Normal conditions
Normal conditions are a restriction on philosophical arguments, especially in epistemology, in order to avoid objections perceived as digressive. As a reply to objections to an explanation of a phenomenon, e.g. a hypothesis or a theory, it is said, argument X holds [only] under normal conditions...

.

Lithium has a diagonal relationship
Diagonal relationship
A diagonal relationship is said to exist between certain pairs of diagonally adjacent elements in the second and third periods of the periodic table...

 with magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

, an element of similar atomic and ionic radius
Ionic radius
Ionic radius, rion, is the radius of an atom's ion. Although neither atoms nor ions have sharp boundaries, it is important to treat them as if they are hard spheres with radii such that the sum of ionic radii of the cation and anion gives the distance between the ions in a crystal lattice...

. Chemical resemblances between the two metals include the formation of a nitride
Nitride
In chemistry, a nitride is a compound of nitrogen where nitrogen has a formal oxidation state of −3. Nitrides are a large class of compounds with a wide range of properties and applications....

 by reaction with N2, the formation of an oxide
Lithium oxide
Lithium oxide or lithia is an inorganic chemical compound. Lithium oxide is formed along with small amounts of lithium peroxide when lithium metal is burned in the air and combines with oxygen:Pure can be produced by the thermal decomposition of lithium peroxide, at 450°C-Structure:In the solid...

  and peroxide when burnt in O2, salts with similar solubilities
Solubility
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

, and thermal instability of the carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

s and nitrides. The metal reacts with hydrogen gas at high temperatures to produce lithium hydride
Lithium hydride
Lithium hydride is the inorganic compound with the formula LiH. It is a colorless solid, although commercial samples are gray. Characteristic of a salt-like, or ionic, hydride, it has a high melting point and is not soluble in any solvent with which it does not react...

 (LiH).

Other known binary compound
Binary compound
A binary compound is a chemical compound that contains exactly two different elements. Examples of binary ionic compounds include calcium chloride , sodium fluoride , and magnesium oxide , whilst examples of binary covalent compounds include water , carbon monoxide , and sulfur hexafluoride...

s include the halide
Halide
A halide is a binary compound, of which one part is a halogen atom and the other part is an element or radical that is less electronegative than the halogen, to make a fluoride, chloride, bromide, iodide, or astatide compound. Many salts are halides...

s (LiF
Lithium fluoride
Lithium fluoride is an inorganic compound with the formula LiF. It is the lithium salt of hydrofluoric acid. This white solid is a simple ionic compound. Its structure is analogous to that of sodium chloride, but it is much less soluble in water. It is mainly used as a component of molten...

, LiCl
Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride is a chemical compound with the formula LiCl. The salt is a typical ionic compound, although the small size of the Li+ ion gives rise to properties not seen for other alkali metal chlorides, such as extraordinary solubility in polar solvents and its hygroscopic...

, LiBr
Lithium bromide
Lithium bromide, or LiBr, is a chemical compound of lithium and bromine. Its extreme hygroscopic character makes LiBr useful as a desiccant in certain air conditioning systems.-Production and properties:...

, LiI
Lithium iodide
Lithium iodide, or LiI, is a compound of lithium and iodine. When exposed to air, it becomes yellow in color, due to the oxidation of iodide to iodine.-Applications:...

), and the sulfide
Sulfide
A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

 (
Lithium sulfide
Lithium sulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula Li2S. It crystallizes in the antifluorite motif, described as the salt 2S2–. It forms a solid yellow-white deliquescent powder. In air, it easily hydrolyses to release hydrogen sulfide .- Preparation :Lithium sulfide is prepared by...

), the superoxide
Superoxide
A superoxide, also known by the obsolete name hyperoxide, is a compound that possesses the superoxide anion with the chemical formula O2−. The systematic name of the anion is dioxide. It is important as the product of the one-electron reduction of dioxygen O2, which occurs widely in nature...

 (), carbide
Carbide
In chemistry, a carbide is a compound composed of carbon and a less electronegative element. Carbides can be generally classified by chemical bonding type as follows: salt-like, covalent compounds, interstitial compounds, and "intermediate" transition metal carbides...

 (
Lithium carbide
Lithium carbide, Li2C2, often known as dilithium acetylide, is a chemical compound of lithium and carbon, an acetylide. It is an intermediate compound produced during radiocarbon dating procedures...

). Many other inorganic compounds are known, where lithium combines with anions to form various salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

s: borates, amides
Lithium amide
Lithium amide is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula Li+NH2-, i.e. it is composed of a lithium cation, and the conjugate base of ammonia. It is a white solid with a tetragonal crystal structure.-Lithium amides:...

, carbonate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.-Properties:Like almost...

, nitrate
Lithium nitrate
Lithium nitrate is an inorganic compound with the formula LiNO3. It is the lithium salt of nitric acid. It is made by reacting lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide with nitric acid.-Uses:...

, or borohydride (
Lithium borohydride
Lithium borohydride is a tetrahydroborate and known in organic synthesis as a reducing agent for esters. Although less common than the related sodium borohydride, the lithium salt offers some advantages of being highly soluble in ethers and being a stronger reducing agent but still safer to...

). Multiple organolithium reagent
Organolithium reagent
An organolithium reagent is an organometallic compound with a direct bond between a carbon and a lithium atom. As the electropositive nature of lithium puts most of the charge density of the bond on the carbon atom, effectively creating a carbanion, organolithium compounds are extremely powerful...

s are known where there is a direct bond
Covalent bond
A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms. The stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding....

 between carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 and lithium atoms effectively creating a carbanion
Carbanion
A carbanion is an anion in which carbon has an unshared pair of electrons and bears a negative charge usually with three substituents for a total of eight valence electrons. The carbanion exists in a trigonal pyramidal geometry. Formally a carbanion is the conjugate base of a carbon acid.where B...

 that are extremely powerful base
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

s and nucleophiles. In many of these organolithium compounds, the lithium ions tend to aggregate into high-symmetry clusters by themselves, which is relatively common for alkali cations.

Isotopes



Naturally occurring lithium is composed of two stable isotope
Isotope
Isotopes are variants of atoms of a particular chemical element, which have differing numbers of neutrons. Atoms of a particular element by definition must contain the same number of protons but may have a distinct number of neutrons which differs from atom to atom, without changing the designation...

s, 6Li and 7Li, the latter being the more abundant (92.5% natural abundance
Natural abundance
In chemistry, natural abundance refers to the abundance of isotopes of a chemical element as naturally found on a planet. The relative atomic mass of these isotopes is the atomic weight listed for the element in the periodic table...

). Both natural isotopes have anomalously low nuclear binding energy
Nuclear binding energy
Nuclear binding energy is the energy required to split a nucleus of an atom into its component parts. The component parts are neutrons and protons, which are collectively called nucleons...

 per nucleon compared to the next lighter and heavier elements, helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 and beryllium
Beryllium
Beryllium is the chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Notable gemstones which contain beryllium include beryl and chrysoberyl...

, which means that alone among stable light elements, lithium can produce net energy through nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

. The two lithium nuclei have lower binding energies per nucleon than any other stable compound nuclides other than deuterium
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

, and helium-3
Helium-3
Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. It is rare on Earth, and is sought for use in nuclear fusion research...

. As a result of this, though very light in atomic weight, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements.
Seven radioisotopes have been characterized, the most stable being 8Li with a half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 of 838 ms
Millisecond
A millisecond is a thousandth of a second.10 milliseconds are called a centisecond....

 and 9Li with a half-life of 178 ms. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are shorter than 8.6 ms. The shortest-lived isotope of lithium is 4Li, which decays through proton emission
Proton emission
Proton emission is a type of radioactive decay in which a proton is ejected from a nucleus. Proton emission can occur from high-lying excited states in a nucleus following a beta decay, in which case the process is known as beta-delayed proton emission, or can occur from the ground state of very...

 and has a half-life of 7.6 × 10−23 s.

7Li is one of the primordial elements (or, more properly, primordial nuclide
Nuclide
A nuclide is an atomic species characterized by the specific constitution of its nucleus, i.e., by its number of protons Z, its number of neutrons N, and its nuclear energy state....

s) produced in Big Bang nucleosynthesis
Big Bang nucleosynthesis
In physical cosmology, Big Bang nucleosynthesis refers to the production of nuclei other than those of H-1 during the early phases of the universe...

. A small amount of both 6Li and 7Li are produced in stars, but are thought to be burned as fast as produced. Additional small amounts of lithium of both 6Li and 7Li may be generated from solar wind, cosmic rays hitting heavier atoms, and from early solar system 7Be
Beryllium
Beryllium is the chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Notable gemstones which contain beryllium include beryl and chrysoberyl...

 and 10Be radioactive decay. While lithium is created in stars during the Stellar nucleosynthesis
Stellar nucleosynthesis
Stellar nucleosynthesis is the collective term for the nuclear reactions taking place in stars to build the nuclei of the elements heavier than hydrogen. Some small quantity of these reactions also occur on the stellar surface under various circumstances...

, it is further burnt
Lithium burning
Lithium is generally present in brown dwarfs and not in low-mass stars. Stars, which achieve the high temperature necessary for fusing hydrogen, rapidly deplete their lithium. This occurs by a collision of lithium-7 and a proton producing two helium-4 nuclei. The temperature necessary for this...

. 7Li can also be generated in carbon star
Carbon star
A carbon star is a late-type star similar to a red giant whose atmosphere contains more carbon than oxygen; the two elements combine in the upper layers of the star, forming carbon monoxide, which consumes all the oxygen in the atmosphere, leaving carbon atoms free to form other carbon compounds,...

s.

Lithium isotopes fractionate substantially during a wide variety of natural processes, including mineral formation (chemical precipitation), metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

, and ion exchange
Ion exchange
Ion exchange is an exchange of ions between two electrolytes or between an electrolyte solution and a complex. In most cases the term is used to denote the processes of purification, separation, and decontamination of aqueous and other ion-containing solutions with solid polymeric or mineralic 'ion...

. Lithium ions substitute for magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 in octahedral sites in clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 minerals, where 6Li is preferred to 7Li, resulting in enrichment of the light isotope in processes of hyperfiltration and rock alteration. The exotic 11Li is known to exhibit a nuclear halo
Nuclear halo
In nuclear physics, an atomic nucleus is called a halo nucleus or is said to have a nuclear halo if its radius is appreciably larger than that predicted by the liquid drop model, wherein the nucleus is assumed to be a sphere of constant density....

. The process known as laser isotope separation can be used to separate lithium isotopes.

Occurrence



Astronomical



According to modern cosmological theory, lithium—as both of its stable isotopes lithium-6 and lithium-7—was among the 3 elements synthesized
Nucleosynthesis
Nucleosynthesis is the process of creating new atomic nuclei from pre-existing nucleons . It is thought that the primordial nucleons themselves were formed from the quark–gluon plasma from the Big Bang as it cooled below two trillion degrees...

 in the Big Bang
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

. Though the amount of lithium generated in Big Bang nucleosynthesis
Big Bang nucleosynthesis
In physical cosmology, Big Bang nucleosynthesis refers to the production of nuclei other than those of H-1 during the early phases of the universe...

 is dependent upon the number of photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s per baryon
Baryon
A baryon is a composite particle made up of three quarks . Baryons and mesons belong to the hadron family, which are the quark-based particles...

, for accepted values the lithium abundance can be calculated, and there is a "cosmological lithium discrepancy" in the Universe: older stars seem to have less lithium than they should, and some younger stars have far more. The lack of lithium in older stars is apparently caused by the "mixing" of lithium into the interior of stars, where it is destroyed. Furthermore, lithium is produced in younger stars. Though it transmutes into two atoms of helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 due to collision with a proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

 at temperatures above 2.4 million degrees Celsius
Celsius
Celsius is a scale and unit of measurement for temperature. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius , who developed a similar temperature scale two years before his death...

 (most stars easily attain this temperature in their interiors), lithium is more abundant than predicted in later-generation stars, for causes not yet completely understood.

Though it was one of the three first elements (together with helium and hydrogen) to be synthesized in the Big Bang, lithium, together with beryllium
Beryllium
Beryllium is the chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Notable gemstones which contain beryllium include beryl and chrysoberyl...

 and boron
Boron
Boron is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the chemical symbol B. Boron is a metalloid. Because boron is not produced by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. However, boron is concentrated on Earth by the...

 are markedly less abundant than other nearby elements. This is a result of the low temperature necessary to destroy lithium, and a lack of common processes to produce it.

Lithium is also found in brown dwarf
Brown dwarf
Brown dwarfs are sub-stellar objects which are too low in mass to sustain hydrogen-1 fusion reactions in their cores, which is characteristic of stars on the main sequence. Brown dwarfs have fully convective surfaces and interiors, with no chemical differentiation by depth...

 stars and certain anomalous orange stars. Because lithium is present in cooler, less-massive brown dwarf stars, but is destroyed in hotter red dwarf
Red dwarf
According to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a red dwarf star is a small and relatively cool star, of the main sequence, either late K or M spectral type....

 stars, its presence in the stars' spectra can be used in the "lithium test" to differentiate the two, as both are smaller than the Sun. Certain orange stars can also contain a high concentration of lithium. Those orange stars found to have a higher than usual concentration of lithium (such as Centaurus X-4) orbit massive objects—neutron stars or black holes—whose gravity evidently pulls heavier lithium to the surface of a hydrogen-helium star, causing more lithium to be observed.

Terrestrial

Lithium mine production (2009) and reserves in tonnes
Country Production Reserves
 Argentina 2,200 800,000
 Australia 4,400 580,000
 Brazil 110 190,000
 Canada 480 180,000
 Chile 7,400 7,500,000
 People's Republic of China 2,300 540,000
 Portugal 490 Not available
 United States Withheld 38,000
 Zimbabwe 350 23,000
World total 18,000 9,900,000


Although lithium is widely distributed on Earth, it does not naturally occur in elemental form due to its high reactivity. The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion tonnes, where the element exists at a relatively constant concentration of 0.14 to 0.25 parts per million (ppm), or 25 micromolar;
higher concentrations approaching 7 ppm are found near hydrothermal vents.

Estimates for crustal
Crust (geology)
In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet or natural satellite, which is chemically distinct from the underlying mantle...

 content range from 20 to 70 ppm by weight. In keeping with its name, lithium forms a minor part of igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

s, with the largest concentrations in granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

s. Granitic pegmatite
Pegmatite
A pegmatite is a very crystalline, intrusive igneous rock composed of interlocking crystals usually larger than 2.5 cm in size; such rocks are referred to as pegmatitic....

s also provide the greatest abundance of lithium-containing minerals, with spodumene
Spodumene
Spodumene is a pyroxene mineral consisting of lithium aluminium inosilicate, LiAl2, and is a source of lithium. It occurs as colorless to yellowish, purplish, or lilac kunzite , yellowish-green or emerald-green hiddenite, prismatic crystals, often of great size...

 and petalite
Petalite
Petalite, also known as castorite, is a lithium aluminium tectosilicate mineral LiAlSi4O10, crystallizing in the monoclinic system. Petalite is a member of the feldspathoid group. It occurs as colorless, grey, yellow, yellow grey, to white tabular crystals and columnar masses. Occurs in...

 being the most commercially viable sources. A newer source for lithium is hectorite
Hectorite
Hectorite is a rare soft, greasy, white clay mineralHectorite was first described in 1941 and named for an occurrence in the United States near Hector . Hectorite occurs with bentonite as an alteration product of clinoptilolite from volcanic ash and tuff with a high glass content...

 clay, the only active development of which is through the Western Lithium Corporation in the United States. At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth's crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 and lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 have about the same abundance.

According to the Handbook of Lithium and Natural Calcium, "Lithium is a comparatively rare element, although it is found in many rocks and some brines, but always in very low concentrations. There are a fairly large number of both lithium mineral and brine deposits but only comparatively a few of them are of actual or potential commercial value. Many are very small, others are too low in grade."

The largest reserve base of lithium is in the Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at . It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is elevated above the mean sea level. The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes...

 area of Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, which has 5.4 million tonnes. US Geological Survey, estimates that in 2009 Chile had the largest reserves by far (7.5 million tonnes) and the highest annual production (7,400 tonnes). Other major suppliers include Australia, Argentina and China. Other estimates put Argentina's reserve base (7.52 million tonnes) above that of Chile (6 million).

In June 2010, the New York Times reported that American geologists were conducting ground surveys on dry
Dry lake
Dry lakes are ephemeral lakebeds, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes are also referred to as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats...

 salt lakes in western Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 believing that large deposits of lithium are located there. "Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province
Ghazni Province
Ghazni is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. Babur records in his Babur-Nama that Ghazni is also known as Zabulistan It is in the east of the country. Its capital is Ghazni City...

 showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world's largest known lithium reserves." These estimates are "based principally on old data, which was gathered mainly by the Soviets during their occupation of Afghanistan from 1979–1989" and "Stephen Peters, the head of the USGS's Afghanistan Minerals Project, said that he was unaware of USGS involvement in any new surveying for minerals in Afghanistan in the past two years. 'We are not aware of any discoveries of lithium,' he said."

Biological


Lithium is found in trace amount in numerous plants, plankton, and invertebrates, at concentrations of 69 to 5,760 parts per billion (ppb). In vertebrates the concentration is slightly lower, and nearly all vertebrate tissue and body fluids have been found to contain lithium ranging from 21 to 763 ppb. Marine organisms tend to bioaccumulate lithium more than terrestrial ones. It is not known whether lithium has a physiological role in any of these organisms, but nutritional studies in mammals have indicated its importance to health, leading to a suggestion that it be classed as an essential trace element with an RDA of 1 mg/day. Observational studies in Japan, reported in 2011, suggested that naturally occurring lithium in drinking water may increase human lifespan.

History



Petalite
Petalite
Petalite, also known as castorite, is a lithium aluminium tectosilicate mineral LiAlSi4O10, crystallizing in the monoclinic system. Petalite is a member of the feldspathoid group. It occurs as colorless, grey, yellow, yellow grey, to white tabular crystals and columnar masses. Occurs in...

 (LiAlSi4O10) was discovered in 1800 by the Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian chemist José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva in a mine on the island of Utö, Sweden
Utö, Sweden
Utö is a small island in the East of Stockholm archipelago, famous for its nature. Utö has the oldest iron-ore mines in Sweden.A famous landmark of Utö is its windmill, which is over 200 years old, and from which there is a good view of the bay Mysingen....

. However, it was not until 1817 that Johan August Arfwedson
Johan August Arfwedson
Johan August Arfwedson was a Swedish chemist who discovered the chemical element lithium in 1817 by isolating it as a salt.- Life and work :...

, then working in the laboratory of the chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius
Jöns Jakob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius was a Swedish chemist. He worked out the modern technique of chemical formula notation, and is together with John Dalton, Antoine Lavoisier, and Robert Boyle considered a father of modern chemistry...

, detected the presence of a new element while analyzing petalite ore. This element formed compounds similar to those of sodium
Sodium
Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

 and potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, though its carbonate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.-Properties:Like almost...

 and hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol...

 were less soluble in water
Solubility
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

 and more alkaline
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

. Berzelius gave the alkaline material the name "lithion/lithina", from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word λιθoς (transliterated as lithos, meaning "stone"), to reflect its discovery in a solid mineral, as opposed to potassium, which had been discovered in plant ashes, and sodium which was known partly for its high abundance in animal blood. He named the metal inside the material as "lithium".

Arfwedson later showed that this same element was present in the minerals spodumene
Spodumene
Spodumene is a pyroxene mineral consisting of lithium aluminium inosilicate, LiAl2, and is a source of lithium. It occurs as colorless to yellowish, purplish, or lilac kunzite , yellowish-green or emerald-green hiddenite, prismatic crystals, often of great size...

 and lepidolite
Lepidolite
Lepidolite Lepidolite Lepidolite (KLi2Al(Al,Si)3O10(F,OH)2 is a lilac-gray or rose-colored phyllosilicate mineral of the mica group that is a secondary source of lithium. It is associated with other lithium-bearing minerals like spodumene in pegmatite bodies. It is one of the major sources of the...

. In 1818, Christian Gmelin
Christian Gmelin
Christian Gottlob Gmelin was a German chemist.Gmelin was professor of chemistry and pharmacy at the University of Tübingen. In 1828 he was one of the first to devise a process for the artificial manufacture of ultramarine. In 1818, Gmelin was the first to observe that lithium salts give a bright...

 was the first to observe that lithium salts give a bright red color to flame. However, both Arfwedson and Gmelin tried and failed to isolate the pure element from its salts. It was not isolated until 1821, when William Thomas Brande
William Thomas Brande
William Thomas Brande FRS , English chemist.Brande was born in London, England. After leaving Westminster School, he was apprenticed, in 1802, to his brother, an apothecary, with the view of adopting the profession of medicine. However, Brande's bent was towards chemistry, a sound knowledge of...

 obtained it by electrolysis
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 of lithium oxide
Lithium oxide
Lithium oxide or lithia is an inorganic chemical compound. Lithium oxide is formed along with small amounts of lithium peroxide when lithium metal is burned in the air and combines with oxygen:Pure can be produced by the thermal decomposition of lithium peroxide, at 450°C-Structure:In the solid...

, a process that had previously been employed by the chemist Sir Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet FRS MRIA was a British chemist and inventor. He is probably best remembered today for his discoveries of several alkali and alkaline earth metals, as well as contributions to the discoveries of the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine...

 to isolate the alkali metals potassium and sodium. Brande also described some pure salts of lithium, such as the chloride, and, estimating that lithia (lithium oxide
Lithium oxide
Lithium oxide or lithia is an inorganic chemical compound. Lithium oxide is formed along with small amounts of lithium peroxide when lithium metal is burned in the air and combines with oxygen:Pure can be produced by the thermal decomposition of lithium peroxide, at 450°C-Structure:In the solid...

) contained about 55% metal, estimated the atomic weight of lithium to be around 9.8 g/mol (modern value ~6.94 g/mol). In 1855, larger quantities of lithium were produced through the electrolysis of lithium chloride
Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride is a chemical compound with the formula LiCl. The salt is a typical ionic compound, although the small size of the Li+ ion gives rise to properties not seen for other alkali metal chlorides, such as extraordinary solubility in polar solvents and its hygroscopic...

 by Robert Bunsen
Robert Bunsen
Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen was a German chemist. He investigated emission spectra of heated elements, and discovered caesium and rubidium with Gustav Kirchhoff. Bunsen developed several gas-analytical methods, was a pioneer in photochemistry, and did early work in the field of organoarsenic...

 and Augustus Matthiessen
Augustus Matthiessen
Augustus Matthiessen, FRS , the son of a merchant, was a British chemist and physicist who obtained his PhD in Germany at the University of Gießen in 1852 with Johann Heinrich Buff. He then worked with Robert Bunsen at the University of Heidelberg from 1853 to 1856...

. The discovery of this procedure henceforth led to commercial production of lithium, beginning in 1923, by the German company Metallgesellschaft AG, which performed an electrolysis of a liquid mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride
Potassium chloride
The chemical compound potassium chloride is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. In its pure state, it is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance, with a crystal structure that cleaves easily in three directions. Potassium chloride crystals are...

.

The production and use of lithium underwent several drastic changes in history. The first major application of lithium became high temperature grease
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 for aircraft engines or similar applications in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and shortly after. This small market was supported by several small mining operations mostly in the United States. The demand for lithium increased dramatically during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 with the production of nuclear fusion weapons
Nuclear weapon design
Nuclear weapon designs are physical, chemical, and engineering arrangements that cause the physics package of a nuclear weapon to detonate. There are three basic design types...

. Both lithium-6 and lithium-7 produce tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 when irradiated by neutrons, and are thus useful for the production of tritium by itself, as well as a form of solid fusion fuel used inside hydrogen bombs in the form of lithium deuteride. The United States became the prime producer of lithium in the period between the late 1950s and the mid 1980s. At the end the stockpile of lithium was roughly 42,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide. The stockpiled lithium was depleted in lithium-6 by 75%.

Lithium was used to decrease the melting temperature of glass and to improve the melting behavior of aluminium oxide
Aluminium oxide
Aluminium oxide is an amphoteric oxide with the chemical formula 23. It is commonly referred to as alumina, or corundum in its crystalline form, as well as many other names, reflecting its widespread occurrence in nature and industry...

 when using the Hall-Héroult process
Hall-Héroult process
The Hall–Héroult process is the major industrial process for the production of aluminium. It involves dissolving alumina in molten cryolite, and electrolysing the molten salt bath to obtain pure aluminium metal.-Process:...

. These two uses dominated the market until the middle of the 1990s. After the end of the nuclear arms race
Nuclear arms race
The nuclear arms race was a competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War...

 the demand for lithium decreased and the sale of Department of Energy stockpiles on the open market further reduced prices. But in the mid-1990s, several companies started to extract lithium from brine
Brine
Brine is water, saturated or nearly saturated with salt .Brine is used to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, in a process known as brining . Brine is also commonly used to age Halloumi and Feta cheeses, or for pickling foodstuffs, as a means of preserving them...

 which proved to be a less expensive method than underground or even open pit mining. Most of the mines closed or shifted their focus to other materials as only the ore from zoned pegmatites could be mined for a competitive price. For example, the US mines near Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Kings Mountain is a small suburban city of Gastonia and Charlotte in Cleveland and Gaston counties, North Carolina, United States. The population was 9,693 at the 2000 census....

 closed before the turn of the century. The use in lithium ion batteries increased the demand for lithium and became the dominant use in 2007. With the surge of lithium demand in batteries in to 2000s, new companies have expanded brine extraction efforts to meet the rising demand.

Production



Since the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 lithium production has greatly increased. The metal is separated from other elements in igneous minerals
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

 such as those above. Lithium salts are extracted from the water of mineral springs
Mineral Springs
Mineral Springs is the name of several locations in the United States:* Mineral Springs, Arkansas* Mineral Springs, North Carolina* Mineral Springs Township, North Dakota* Mineral Springs at Green Springs, Ohio...

, brine
Brine
Brine is water, saturated or nearly saturated with salt .Brine is used to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, in a process known as brining . Brine is also commonly used to age Halloumi and Feta cheeses, or for pickling foodstuffs, as a means of preserving them...

 pools and brine deposits. The metal is produced electrolytically
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 from a mixture of fused lithium chloride
Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride is a chemical compound with the formula LiCl. The salt is a typical ionic compound, although the small size of the Li+ ion gives rise to properties not seen for other alkali metal chlorides, such as extraordinary solubility in polar solvents and its hygroscopic...

 and potassium chloride
Potassium chloride
The chemical compound potassium chloride is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. In its pure state, it is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance, with a crystal structure that cleaves easily in three directions. Potassium chloride crystals are...

. In 1998 it was about (or 43 US$/pound
Pound (mass)
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...

).

There are widespread hopes of using lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles, but one study concluded that "realistically achievable lithium carbonate production will be sufficient for only a small fraction of future PHEV and EV
Electric vehicle
An electric vehicle , also referred to as an electric drive vehicle, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion...

 global market requirements", that "demand from the portable electronics sector will absorb much of the planned production increases in the next decade", and that "mass production of lithium carbonate is not environmentally sound, it will cause irreparable ecological damage to ecosystems that should be protected and that LiIon propulsion is incompatible with the notion of the 'Green Car'".

Deposits of lithium are found in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 throughout the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 mountain chain. Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 is the leading lithium producer, followed by Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. Both countries recover the lithium from brine pools. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 lithium is recovered from brine pools in Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

. However, half the world's known reserves are located in Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, a nation sitting along the central eastern slope of the Andes.
In 2009 Bolivia is negotiating with Japanese, French, and Korean firms to begin extraction. According to the US Geological Survey, Bolivia's Uyuni
Uyuni
Uyuni is a city in the southwest of Bolivia. It primarily serves as a gateway for tourists visiting the world's largest salt flats, the nearby Salar de Uyuni.-Origin:...

 Desert has 5.4 million tonnes of lithium. China may emerge as a significant producer of brine-source lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.-Properties:Like almost...

 around 2010. There is potential production of up to 55,000 tonnes per year if projects in Qinghai
Qinghai
Qinghai ; Oirat Mongolian: ; ; Salar:) is a province of the People's Republic of China, named after Qinghai Lake...

 province and Tibet
Tibet Autonomous Region
The Tibet Autonomous Region , Tibet or Xizang for short, also called the Xizang Autonomous Region is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China , created in 1965....

 proceed.

Worldwide reserves of lithium are estimated to be 23 million tonne
Tonne
The tonne, known as the metric ton in the US , often put pleonastically as "metric tonne" to avoid confusion with ton, is a metric system unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms. The tonne is not an International System of Units unit, but is accepted for use with the SI...

s. Using the battery efficiency figure of 400 g of lithium per kWh, this gives a total
maximum lithium battery capacity of 52 billion kWh which, assuming it is used exclusively for car batteries, is enough for approximately 2 billion cars with a 24 kWh battery (like a Nissan Leaf ).

Applications



Ceramics and glass


Lithium oxide is a widely used flux for processing silica, reducing the melting point
Melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

 and viscosity
Viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 of the material and leading to glaze
Ceramic glaze
Glaze is a layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fired to fuse to a ceramic object to color, decorate, strengthen or waterproof it.-Use:...

s of improved physical properties including low coefficients for thermal expansion. Lithium oxides are a component of ovenware. Worldwide, this is the single largest use for lithium compounds (see chart).

Electrical and electronics


In the later years of the 20th century lithium became important as an anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

 material. Used in lithium-ion batteries because of its high electrochemical potential, a typical cell can generate approximately 3 volt
Volt
The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

s, compared with 2.1 volts for lead/acid or 1.5 volts for zinc-carbon cells. Because of its low atomic mass
Atomic mass
The atomic mass is the mass of a specific isotope, most often expressed in unified atomic mass units. The atomic mass is the total mass of protons, neutrons and electrons in a single atom....

, it also has a high charge- and power-to-weight ratio. Lithium batteries are disposable
Disposable
A disposable is a product designed for cheapness and short-term convenience rather than medium to long-term durability, with most products only intended for single use. The term is also sometimes used for products that may last several months to distinguish from similar products that last...

 (primary
Primary cell
A primary cell is any kind of battery in which the electrochemical reaction is not reversible, rendering the cell non-rechargeable. A common example of a primary cell is the disposable battery. Unlike a secondary cell, the reaction cannot be reversed by running a current into the cell; the chemical...

) batteries
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

 with lithium or its compounds as an anode
Anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

. Lithium batteries are not to be confused with lithium-ion batteries, which are high energy-density rechargeable batteries. Other rechargeable batteries include the lithium-ion polymer battery, lithium iron phosphate battery
Lithium iron phosphate battery
The lithium iron phosphate battery, also called LFP battery, is a type of rechargeable battery, specifically a lithium-ion battery, which uses LiFePO4 as a cathode material.-History:...

, and the nanowire battery
Nanowire battery
A nanowire battery is a lithium-ion battery invented by a team led by Dr. Yi Cui at Stanford University in 2007. The team's invention consists of a stainless steel anode covered in silicon nanowires, to replace the traditional graphite anode...

. New technologies are constantly being announced.

Lubricating greases


The third most common use of lithium is in greases. Lithum hydroxide is a strong base
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

, and when heated with a fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 it produces a soap made of lithium stearate
Stearate
Stearateis the anion form of stearic acid.Formula is C17H35COO−.-Examples:* Sodium stearate, Na* Calcium stearate, Ca2* Magnesium stearate, Mg2...

. Lithium soap has the ability to thicken
Thickening agent
Thickening agents, or thickeners, is the term applied to substances which increase the viscosity of a solution or liquid/solid mixture without substantially modifying its other properties; although most frequently applied to foods where the target property is taste, the term also is applicable to...

 oil
Oil
An oil is any substance that is liquid at ambient temperatures and does not mix with water but may mix with other oils and organic solvents. This general definition includes vegetable oils, volatile essential oils, petrochemical oils, and synthetic oils....

s, and it is used to manufacture all-purpose, high-temperature lubricating greases
Grease (lubricant)
The term grease is used to describe semisolid lubricants. Although the word grease is also used to describe rendered fat of animals, in the context of lubrication, grease typically applies to a material consisting of a soap emulsified with mineral or vegetable oil...

.

Other chemical and industrial uses



Inorganic lithium salts


Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride
Lithium chloride is a chemical compound with the formula LiCl. The salt is a typical ionic compound, although the small size of the Li+ ion gives rise to properties not seen for other alkali metal chlorides, such as extraordinary solubility in polar solvents and its hygroscopic...

 and lithium bromide
Lithium bromide
Lithium bromide, or LiBr, is a chemical compound of lithium and bromine. Its extreme hygroscopic character makes LiBr useful as a desiccant in certain air conditioning systems.-Production and properties:...

 are extremely hygroscopic and are used as desiccant
Desiccant
A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness in its local vicinity in a moderately well-sealed container....

s. Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide
Lithium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol...

 (LiOH) is an important compound of lithium obtained from lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.-Properties:Like almost...

 (Li2CO3).

Metallic lithium and its complex hydride
Hydride
In chemistry, a hydride is the anion of hydrogen, H−, or, more commonly, a compound in which one or more hydrogen centres have nucleophilic, reducing, or basic properties. In compounds that are regarded as hydrides, hydrogen is bonded to a more electropositive element or group...

s, such as Li[AlH4
Lithium aluminium hydride
Lithium aluminium hydride, commonly abbreviated to LAH or known as LithAl, is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula LiAlH4. It was discovered by Finholt, Bond and Schlesinger in 1947. This compound is used as a reducing agent in organic synthesis, especially for the reduction of esters,...

], are used as high energy additives to rocket propellant
Rocket propellant
Rocket propellant is mass that is stored in some form of propellant tank, prior to being used as the propulsive mass that is ejected from a rocket engine in the form of a fluid jet to produce thrust. A fuel propellant is often burned with an oxidizer propellant to produce large volumes of very hot...

s.

Air purification


Lithium peroxide
Lithium peroxide
Lithium peroxide is the inorganic compound with the formula Li2O2. This solid was deployed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere in the vehicles used in Apollo mission.-Preparation:...

, lithium nitrate
Lithium nitrate
Lithium nitrate is an inorganic compound with the formula LiNO3. It is the lithium salt of nitric acid. It is made by reacting lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide with nitric acid.-Uses:...

, lithium chlorate
Lithium chlorate
Lithium chlorate is the inorganic chemical compound with the formula LiClO3.Like all chlorates, it is an oxidizer and may become unstable and possibly explosive if mixed with organic materials, reactive metal powders, or sulfur....

 and lithium perchlorate
Lithium perchlorate
Lithium perchlorate is the inorganic compound with the formula LiClO4. This white or colourless crystalline salt is noteworthy for its high solubility in many solvents. It exists both in anhydrous form and as a trihydrate.-Uses:...

 are used as oxidizers in rocket propellant
Rocket propellant
Rocket propellant is mass that is stored in some form of propellant tank, prior to being used as the propulsive mass that is ejected from a rocket engine in the form of a fluid jet to produce thrust. A fuel propellant is often burned with an oxidizer propellant to produce large volumes of very hot...

s, and also in oxygen candles that supply submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s with oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

.

Lithium hydroxide and lithium peroxide
Lithium peroxide
Lithium peroxide is the inorganic compound with the formula Li2O2. This solid was deployed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere in the vehicles used in Apollo mission.-Preparation:...

 are the salts most used in confined areas, such as aboard spacecraft
Spacecraft
A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

 and submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s, for carbon dioxide removal and air purification. Lithium hydroxide absorbs carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 from the air by reacting with it to form lithium carbonate, and is preferred over other alkaline hydroxides for its low weight. Lithium peroxide (Li2O2) in presence of moisture not only absorbs carbon dioxide to form lithium carbonate, but also releases oxygen. For example:
2 Li2O2 + 2 CO2 → 2 Li2CO3 + O2.

Optics


Lithium fluoride
Lithium fluoride
Lithium fluoride is an inorganic compound with the formula LiF. It is the lithium salt of hydrofluoric acid. This white solid is a simple ionic compound. Its structure is analogous to that of sodium chloride, but it is much less soluble in water. It is mainly used as a component of molten...

, artificially grown as crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

, is clear and transparent and often used in specialist optics for IR
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

, UV
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 and VUV (vacuum UV) applications. It has one of the lowest refractive index
Refractive index
In optics the refractive index or index of refraction of a substance or medium is a measure of the speed of light in that medium. It is expressed as a ratio of the speed of light in vacuum relative to that in the considered medium....

es and the farthest transmission range in the deep UV of most common materials. Finely divided lithium fluoride powder has been used for thermoluminescent radiation dosimetry
Thermoluminescent Dosimeter
A thermoluminescent dosimeter, or TLD, is a type of radiation dosimeter. A TLD measures ionizing radiation exposure by measuring the amount of visible light emitted from a crystal in the detector when the crystal is heated. The amount of light emitted is dependent upon the radiation exposure...

 (TLD): when a sample of such is exposed to radiation, it accumulates crystal defects which, when heated, resolve via a release of bluish light whose intensity is proportional to the absorbed dose
Absorbed dose
Absorbed dose is a measure of the energy deposited in a medium by ionizing radiation per unit mass...

, thus allowing this to be quantified. Lithium fluoride is sometimes used in focal lenses of telescope
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

s.

The high non-linearity of lithium niobate
Lithium niobate
Lithium niobate is a compound of niobium, lithium, and oxygen. Its single crystals are an important material for optical waveguides, mobile phones, optical modulators and various other linear and non-linear optical applications.-Properties:...

 also makes it useful in non-linear optics applications
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

. It is used extensively in telecommunication products such as mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

s and optical modulator
Optical modulator
An optical modulator is a device which is used to modulate a beam of light. The beam may be carried over free space, or propagated through an optical waveguide. Depending on the parameter of a light beam which is manipulated, modulators may be categorized into amplitude modulators, phase...

s, for such components as resonant crystals
Crystal oscillator
A crystal oscillator is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material to create an electrical signal with a very precise frequency...

. Lithium applications are used in more than 60% of mobile phones.

Elemental lithium and reagents prepared from it


Because of its specific heat capacity, the highest of all solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

s, lithium metal is often used in coolant
Coolant
A coolant is a fluid which flows through a device to prevent its overheating, transferring the heat produced by the device to other devices that use or dissipate it. An ideal coolant has high thermal capacity, low viscosity, is low-cost, non-toxic, and chemically inert, neither causing nor...

s for heat transfer
Heat transfer
Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the exchange of thermal energy from one physical system to another. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as heat conduction, convection, thermal radiation, and phase-change transfer...

 applications.
The Mark 50 Torpedo
Mark 50 torpedo
The Mark 50 torpedo is a U.S. Navy advanced lightweight torpedo for use against fast, deep-diving submarines. The Mk-50 can be launched from all anti-submarine aircraft and from torpedo tubes aboard surface combatant ships. The Mk-50 was intended to replace the Mk-46 as the fleet's lightweight...

 stored chemical energy propulsion system (SCEPS) uses a small tank of sulfur hexafluoride
Sulfur hexafluoride
Sulfur hexafluoride is an inorganic, colorless, odorless, and non-flammable greenhouse gas. has an octahedral geometry, consisting of six fluorine atoms attached to a central sulfur atom. It is a hypervalent molecule. Typical for a nonpolar gas, it is poorly soluble in water but soluble in...

 gas which is sprayed over a block of solid lithium. The reaction generates enormous heat which is used to generate steam
Steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 from seawater. The steam propels the torpedo in a closed Rankine cycle
Rankine cycle
The Rankine cycle is a cycle that converts heat into work. The heat is supplied externally to a closed loop, which usually uses water. This cycle generates about 90% of all electric power used throughout the world, including virtually all solar thermal, biomass, coal and nuclear power plants. It is...

.

When used as a flux
Flux (metallurgy)
In metallurgy, a flux , is a chemical cleaning agent, flowing agent, or purifying agent. Fluxes may have more than one function at a time...

 for welding
Welding
Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

 or soldering
Soldering
Soldering is a process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a filler metal into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the workpiece...

, metallic lithium promotes the fusing of metals during the process and eliminates the forming of oxide
Oxide
An oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom in its chemical formula. Metal oxides typically contain an anion of oxygen in the oxidation state of −2....

s by absorbing impurities. Its fusing quality is also important as a flux for producing ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

s, enamels
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

 and glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

. Alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

s of the metal with aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

, cadmium
Cadmium
Cadmium is a chemical element with the symbol Cd and atomic number 48. This soft, bluish-white metal is chemically similar to the two other stable metals in group 12, zinc and mercury. Similar to zinc, it prefers oxidation state +2 in most of its compounds and similar to mercury it shows a low...

, copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 and manganese
Manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

 are used to make high-performance aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 parts (see also Lithium-aluminium alloys
Al-Li
Al-Li alloys are a series of alloys of aluminium and lithium, often also including copper and zirconium. Since lithium is the least dense elemental metal these alloys are significantly less dense than aluminium...

). Lithium compounds are also used as pyrotechnic colorant
Pyrotechnic colorant
A pyrotechnic colorant is a chemical compound which causes a flame to burn with a particular color. These are used to create the colors in pyrotechnic compositions like fireworks and colored fires. The color-producing species are usually created from other chemicals during the reaction. Metal salts...

s and oxidizers in red fireworks
Fireworks
Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. The most common use of a firework is as part of a fireworks display. A fireworks event is a display of the effects produced by firework devices...

 and flares
Flare (pyrotechnic)
A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signalling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications...

.

Lithium metal is also used in the pharmaceutical and fine-chemical industry in the manufacture of organolithium reagent
Organolithium reagent
An organolithium reagent is an organometallic compound with a direct bond between a carbon and a lithium atom. As the electropositive nature of lithium puts most of the charge density of the bond on the carbon atom, effectively creating a carbanion, organolithium compounds are extremely powerful...

s, which are used both as strong bases and as reagents for the formation of carbon-carbon bond
Carbon-carbon bond
A carbon–carbon bond is a covalent bond between two carbon atoms. The most common form is the single bond: a bond composed of two electrons, one from each of the two atoms. The carbon–carbon single bond is a sigma bond and is said to be formed between one hybridized orbital from each...

s. Organolithium compounds are also used in polymer
Polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

 synthesis as catalysts/initiators
Radical initiator
In chemistry, radical initiators are substances that can produce radical species under mild conditions and promote radical reactions . These substances generally possess weak bonds—bonds that have small bond dissociation energies. Radical initiators are utilized in industrial processes such...

 in anionic polymerization
Anionic addition polymerization
Anionic addition polymerization is a form of chain-growth polymerization or addition polymerization that involves the polymerization of vinyl monomers with strong electronegative groups. This polymerization is carried out through a carbanion active species. Like all addition polymerizations, it...

 of unfunctionalized
Functional group
In organic chemistry, functional groups are specific groups of atoms within molecules that are responsible for the characteristic chemical reactions of those molecules. The same functional group will undergo the same or similar chemical reaction regardless of the size of the molecule it is a part of...

 olefins. Lithium is used in the preparation of organolithium compounds, which are in turn very reactive and are the basis of many synthetic applications.

Nuclear


Lithium-6 is valued as a source material for tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 production and as a neutron absorber in nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

. Natural lithium contains about 7.5% lithium-6 from which large amounts of lithium-6 have been produced by isotope separation
Isotope separation
Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotopes of a chemical element by removing other isotopes, for example separating natural uranium into enriched uranium and depleted uranium. This is a crucial process in the manufacture of uranium fuel for nuclear power stations, and is...

 for use in nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s. Lithium-7 gained interest for use in nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

 coolant
Coolant
A coolant is a fluid which flows through a device to prevent its overheating, transferring the heat produced by the device to other devices that use or dissipate it. An ideal coolant has high thermal capacity, low viscosity, is low-cost, non-toxic, and chemically inert, neither causing nor...

s.


Lithium deuteride was the fusion fuel
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 of choice in early versions of the hydrogen bomb
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

. When bombarded by neutron
Neutron
The neutron is a subatomic hadron particle which has the symbol or , no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton. With the exception of hydrogen, nuclei of atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of...

s, both 6Li and 7Li produce tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

—this reaction, which was not fully understood when hydrogen bombs
Teller-Ulam design
The Teller–Ulam design is the nuclear weapon design concept used in most of the world's nuclear weapons. It is colloquially referred to as "the secret of the hydrogen bomb" because it employs hydrogen fusion, though in most applications the bulk of its destructive energy comes from uranium fission,...

 were first tested, was responsible for the runaway yield of the Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo was the code name given to the first U.S. test of a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb device, detonated on March 1, 1954 at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, as the first test of Operation Castle. Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States ,...

 nuclear test. Tritium fuses with deuterium
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

 in a fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 reaction that is relatively easy to achieve. Although details remain secret, lithium-6 deuteride still apparently plays a role in modern nuclear weapons, as a fusion material.

Lithium fluoride
Lithium fluoride
Lithium fluoride is an inorganic compound with the formula LiF. It is the lithium salt of hydrofluoric acid. This white solid is a simple ionic compound. Its structure is analogous to that of sodium chloride, but it is much less soluble in water. It is mainly used as a component of molten...

 as highly enriched in the lithium-7 isotope forms the basic constituent of the fluoride salt mixture LiF-BeF2
Beryllium fluoride
Beryllium fluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula BeF2. This white solid is the principal precursor for the manufacture of beryllium metal.-Structure and bonding:...

 that used in liquid-fluoride nuclear reactors
Molten salt reactor
A molten salt reactor is a type of nuclear fission reactor in which the primary coolant, or even the fuel itself is a molten salt mixture...

. Lithium fluoride is exceptionally chemically stable and LiF-BeF2 mixtures have low melting points. In addition, 7Li, Be, and F are among the few nuclide
Nuclide
A nuclide is an atomic species characterized by the specific constitution of its nucleus, i.e., by its number of protons Z, its number of neutrons N, and its nuclear energy state....

s with low enough thermal neutron capture cross-sections
Neutron cross-section
In nuclear and particle physics, the concept of a neutron cross section is used to express the likelihood of interaction between an incident neutron and a target nucleus. In conjunction with the neutron flux, it enables the calculation of the reaction rate, for example to derive the thermal power...

 to not poison the fission reactions inside a nuclear fission reactor.Beryllium and fluorine occur only as one isotope, 9Be and 19F respectively. These two, together with 7Li, as well as 2H
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

, 11B, 15N, 209Bi, and the stable isotopes of C, and O, are the only nuclides with low enough thermal neutron capture cross sections aside from actinide
Actinide
The actinide or actinoid series encompasses the 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers from 89 to 103, actinium through lawrencium.The actinide series derives its name from the group 3 element actinium...

s to serve as major constituents of a molten salt breeder reactor fuel.


In conceptualized nuclear fusion power
Fusion power
Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus . In doing so they release a comparatively large amount of energy arising from the binding energy due to the strong nuclear force which is manifested...

 plants, lithium will be used to produce tritium in magnetically confined reactors
Magnetic confinement fusion
Magnetic confinement fusion is an approach to generating fusion power that uses magnetic fields to confine the hot fusion fuel in the form of a plasma. Magnetic confinement is one of two major branches of fusion energy research, the other being inertial confinement fusion. The magnetic approach is...

 using deuterium
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

 and tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 as the fuel. Tritium does not occur naturally and will be produced by surrounding the reacting plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

 with a 'blanket' containing lithium where neutrons from the deuterium-tritium reaction in the plasma will react with the lithium to produce more tritium:
6Li + n → 4He + 3T.


Lithium is also used as a source for alpha particle
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

s, or helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 nuclei. When 7Li is bombarded by accelerated proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

s 8Be
Beryllium
Beryllium is the chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Notable gemstones which contain beryllium include beryl and chrysoberyl...

 is formed, which undergoes fission to form two alpha particles. This feat, called "splitting the atom" at the time, was the first fully man-made nuclear reaction
Nuclear reaction
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, a nuclear reaction is semantically considered to be the process in which two nuclei, or else a nucleus of an atom and a subatomic particle from outside the atom, collide to produce products different from the initial particles...

. It was produced by Cockroft and Walton
Ernest Walton
Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton was an Irish physicist and Nobel laureate for his work with John Cockcroft with "atom-smashing" experiments done at Cambridge University in the early 1930s, and so became the first person in history to artificially split the atom, thus ushering the nuclear age...

 in 1932. (Nuclear reactions and human-directed nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or isotope into another. In other words, atoms of one element can be changed into atoms of other element by 'transmutation'...

 had been accomplished as early as 1917, but by using natural radioactive bombardment with alpha particle
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

s).

Medicine



In the treatment of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or...

, lithium compounds continue to be the standard against which newer medications are measured. Lithium salts may also be helpful for related diagnoses, such as schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by recurring episodes of elevated or depressed mood, or of simultaneously elevated and depressed mood, that alternate with, or occur together with, distortions in perception.Schizoaffective disorder...

 and cyclic major depression. The active principle in these salts is the lithium ion Li+, although detailed mechanisms are debated.

Precautions


Lithium is corrosive
Corrosive
A corrosive substance is one that will destroy or irreversibly damage another surface or substance with which it comes into contact. The main hazards to people include damage to the eyes, the skin, and the tissue under the skin; inhalation or ingestion of a corrosive substance can damage the...

 and requires special handling to avoid skin contact. Breathing lithium dust or lithium compounds (which are often alkaline) initially irritate
Irritation
Irritation or exacerbation, in biology and physiology, is a state of inflammation or painful reaction to allergy or cell-lining damage. A stimulus or agent which induces the state of irritation is an irritant...

 the nose
Human nose
The visible part of the human nose is the protruding part of the face that bears the nostrils. The shape of the nose is determined by the ethmoid bone and the nasal septum, which consists mostly of cartilage and which separates the nostrils...

 and throat
Throat
In vertebrate anatomy, the throat is the anterior part of the neck, in front of the vertebral column. It consists of the pharynx and larynx...

, while higher exposure can cause a buildup of fluid in the lung
Lung
The lung is the essential respiration organ in many air-breathing animals, including most tetrapods, a few fish and a few snails. In mammals and the more complex life forms, the two lungs are located near the backbone on either side of the heart...

s, leading to pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema , or oedema , is fluid accumulation in the air spaces and parenchyma of the lungs. It leads to impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure...

. The metal itself is a handling hazard because of the caustic hydroxide produced when it is in contact with moisture. Lithium is safely stored in non-reactive compounds such as naphtha
Naphtha
Naphtha normally refers to a number of different flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons, i.e., a component of natural gas condensate or a distillation product from petroleum, coal tar or peat boiling in a certain range and containing certain hydrocarbons. It is a broad term covering among the...

.

There have been suggestions of increased risk of developing Ebstein's cardiac anomaly
Ebstein's anomaly
Ebstein anomaly is a congenital heart defect in which the opening of the tricuspid valve is displaced towards the apex of the right ventricle of the heart.-Presentation:...

 in infants born to women taking lithium during the first trimester of pregnancy
Pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

.

Regulation


Some jurisdictions limit the sale of lithium batteries
Lithium battery
Lithium batteries are disposable batteries that have lithium metal or lithium compounds as an anode. Depending on the design and chemical compounds used, lithium cells can produce voltages from 1.5 V to about 3.7 V, over twice the voltage of an ordinary zinc–carbon battery or alkaline battery...

, which are the most readily available source of lithium for ordinary consumers. Lithium can be used to reduce pseudoephedrine
Pseudoephedrine
Pseudoephedrine is a sympathomimetic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine chemical classes. It is used as a nasal/sinus decongestant and stimulant, or as a wakefulness-promoting agent....

 and ephedrine
Ephedrine
Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine commonly used as a stimulant, appetite suppressant, concentration aid, decongestant, and to treat hypotension associated with anaesthesia....

 to methamphetamine
Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of psychoactive drugs...

 in the Birch reduction
Birch reduction
The Birch Reduction is an organic reaction which is particularly useful in synthetic organic chemistry. The reaction was reported in 1944 by the Australian chemist Arthur Birch working in the Dyson Perrins Laboratory in the University of Oxford, building on earlier work by Wooster and Godfrey in...

 method, which employs solutions of alkali metals dissolved in anhydrous ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

.
Carriage and shipment of some kinds of lithium batteries may be prohibited aboard certain types of transportation (particularly aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

) because of the ability of most types of lithium batteries to fully discharge very rapidly when short-circuited
Short circuit
A short circuit in an electrical circuit that allows a current to travel along an unintended path, often where essentially no electrical impedance is encountered....

, leading to overheating and possible explosion
Explosion
An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. An explosion creates a shock wave. If the shock wave is a supersonic detonation, then the source of the blast is called a "high explosive"...

 in a process called thermal runaway
Thermal runaway
Thermal runaway refers to a situation where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result...

. Most consumer lithium batteries have thermal overload protection built-in to prevent this type of incident, or their design inherently limits short-circuit currents. Internal shorts have been known to develop due to manufacturing defects or damage to batteries that can lead to spontaneous thermal runaway.

See also

  • Dilithium
    Dilithium
    Dilithium, Li2, is a diatomic molecule comprising two lithium atoms covalently bonded together. Li2 is known in the gas phase. It has a bond order of 1, an internuclear separation of 267.3 pm and a bond energy of 101 kJ mol−1....

  • Lithium compounds
  • Lithium-based grease
    Lithium-based grease
    Lithium soap, often referred to simply as "lithium grease", is a lubricant grease containing a lithium derivative of soap. Soaps are salts of fatty acids. In the domestic setting, sodium-based soaps are common for detergents, but for lubrication and as form-release agents, soaps derived from...

  • Lithium-ion battery


External links