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Uses and Properties

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Lithium batteries are a type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium as one of its primary components in the electrodes. They have become the most popular choice for a wide range of portable electronic devices, from smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles and energy storage systems.


A soft, silvery metal. It has the lowest density of all metals. It reacts vigorously with water.


Lithium: The Elemental Wonder Transforming Our World

Lithium, a silvery-white alkali metal, might not be the first element that comes to mind when thinking about technological advancements and sustainability, but it is undeniably one of the most versatile and valuable elements in our modern world. Its unique properties have propelled it to the forefront of a wide range of industries, from electronics and energy storage to medicine and more. In this article, we will explore the remarkable uses of lithium and how it is transforming our lives.

1. Lithium Batteries: Powering Our Lives

One of the most well-known and widespread uses of lithium is in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These batteries have revolutionized the way we power our portable devices, from smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles (EVs). Lithium-ion batteries are known for their high energy density, long cycle life, and low self-discharge rates. These qualities have made them the preferred choice for a wide array of applications.

In the automotive industry, lithium-ion batteries have played a crucial role in the rise of electric cars. They store energy efficiently, allowing electric vehicles to travel longer distances on a single charge. As the world continues to shift toward sustainable transportation options, lithium-ion batteries are a linchpin in the development of cleaner, greener, and more efficient mobility solutions.

2. Energy Storage: Balancing the Grid

Lithium-ion batteries are not only powering electric vehicles but are also transforming the energy landscape. They are an essential part of energy storage systems that help balance the supply and demand of electricity. This is particularly important in integrating intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar power into the grid.

Energy storage systems, often made up of lithium-ion batteries, can store excess electricity when generation exceeds demand and release it when needed. This capability enhances the reliability and stability of the electrical grid, reducing the risk of blackouts and enabling a smoother transition to a more sustainable energy mix.

3. Portable Electronics

The prevalence of lithium-ion batteries in portable electronics cannot be overstated. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and wearable devices have all benefited from the energy density and lightweight properties of lithium-ion batteries. The long-lasting charge of these batteries has enabled the development of more powerful and versatile gadgets, changing the way we live and work.

Lithium-ion batteries are also powering medical devices, such as pacemakers and hearing aids. The small size and long life of these batteries make them ideal for critical medical applications, improving the quality of life for countless individuals.

4. Aerospace and Aviation

In the aerospace industry, lithium batteries are used to power everything from aircraft navigation systems and avionics to emergency lighting. Their lightweight and high energy density characteristics make them a preferred choice, ensuring the safety and reliability of onboard systems. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries are vital for electric aircraft, as they enable the efficient storage of power needed for propulsion.

5. Lubricating Greases and Glass Production

Lithium also finds applications in more traditional industrial settings. Lithium-based greases are widely used for lubricating various types of machinery and equipment. These greases provide high resistance to water and corrosion, making them suitable for heavy-duty applications in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing.

Lithium compounds are used in the production of high-quality glass and ceramics. They act as a flux, lowering the melting point of the raw materials and reducing the energy required for the production process. This application contributes to more energy-efficient glass manufacturing and improved product quality.

6. Medicinal Applications

Lithium's medicinal use in treating bipolar disorder and other mood disorders is another critical aspect of its versatility. Lithium salts, such as lithium carbonate and lithium citrate, are prescribed as mood stabilizers. They help balance mood swings and prevent the extremes of mania and depression.

While the exact mechanisms of lithium's effects on the brain are still not fully understood, its use has been a game-changer for those living with bipolar disorder. It has helped many individuals lead more stable and fulfilling lives by managing their mood symptoms.

7. Nuclear Fusion Research

Lithium has a role to play in the quest for clean and virtually limitless energy through nuclear fusion. In fusion reactors, lithium is used to create tritium, a radioactive isotope that, when combined with deuterium, produces a controlled nuclear reaction. This process, known as lithium breeding, is vital for sustaining fusion reactions, which have the potential to provide a safe and abundant source of energy in the future.

8. Greener Agriculture

Lithium is emerging as a critical component in sustainable agriculture. It has been found to enhance the growth and yield of certain crops while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. As the world seeks more environmentally friendly and efficient agricultural practices, lithium's role in boosting crop production is gaining attention.


Lithium, with its remarkable properties and diverse applications, is quietly but profoundly shaping our world. From the palm of our hand in our smartphones to the wheels of electric cars on the road and the batteries balancing the energy grid, lithium plays a central role in our daily lives. As we continue to prioritize sustainability, its applications in clean energy storage, electric vehicles, and aerospace are driving innovations that have the potential to make our planet cleaner and more resilient.

Furthermore, its contributions to medicine, industry, and agriculture showcase the multifaceted nature of this remarkable element. Whether it's promoting mental health, improving industrial processes, or enhancing crop yields, lithium's influence extends to nearly every facet of our existence. As we explore new technologies and harness the power of lithium, we move closer to a more sustainable and interconnected world, where this versatile element is at the heart of countless transformative applications.


In today's fast-paced world of technology, lithium is a household name, known primarily for its role in rechargeable batteries that power our smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. However, the story of lithium stretches back centuries and is far richer and more complex than its modern-day applications might suggest. Join us as we embark on a journey through time to explore the intriguing history of lithium, a metal that has quietly but profoundly shaped our lives.

The Discovery of Lithium

Lithium's tale begins in the early 19th century when Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson stumbled upon an unknown element while analyzing petalite, a mineral from the Swedish island of Uto. In 1817, Arfwedson isolated this element and named it "lithium" from the Greek word "lithos," meaning stone, due to its presence in minerals.

Lithium remained a scientific curiosity for decades, with limited practical applications until the 20th century. It was not until the 1940s and 1950s that lithium began to find its way into industrial and medical uses.

Lithium in Psychiatry

One of the earliest medical applications of lithium was in psychiatry. In the late 1940s, Australian psychiatrist John Cade made a groundbreaking discovery when he successfully treated patients with bipolar disorder using lithium salts. This marked the beginning of lithium's use as a mood stabilizer, a role it continues to play today.

Lithium's ability to balance moods and prevent manic and depressive episodes has made it a crucial tool in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Its precise mechanism of action is still not fully understood, but it remains an essential component in managing this challenging condition.

Lithium-Ion Batteries Revolution

The true turning point in lithium's history came with the development of lithium-ion batteries in the late 20th century. In the 1970s, American chemist John B. Goodenough made a significant breakthrough by identifying a cathode material that could effectively store and release lithium ions. This discovery paved the way for the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries.

Sony Corporation launched the first commercially available lithium-ion battery in 1991, forever changing the landscape of consumer electronics. These batteries offered a high energy density, longer lifespan, and greater rechargeability than their predecessors, nickel-cadmium batteries. As a result, lithium-ion batteries became the standard power source for portable electronics, from laptops and cell phones to digital cameras and electric toothbrushes.

The Electric Vehicle Revolution

As concerns about environmental sustainability and the shift towards cleaner energy sources grew in the 21st century, lithium found itself at the forefront of a new industrial revolution - the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. Lithium-ion batteries became the driving force behind electric cars, enabling longer ranges and faster charging times.

Companies like Tesla, Nissan, and Chevrolet began producing electric vehicles that made the technology accessible to a wider audience. Lithium played a central role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation.

Challenges and Opportunities

While lithium's history is marked by remarkable achievements, it is not without its challenges. The increasing demand for lithium, driven by the EV industry and renewable energy storage, has led to concerns about sustainable mining practices and resource availability.

Many lithium reserves are concentrated in a handful of countries, which has sparked discussions about the geopolitics of lithium supply. Additionally, there are environmental concerns associated with lithium extraction, particularly in regions where water is scarce.

Efforts are underway to address these challenges through responsible mining practices and the development of recycling technologies. Researchers are also exploring alternative battery chemistries to reduce reliance on lithium and mitigate supply chain issues.

The history of lithium is a testament to human ingenuity and the capacity for innovation. From its serendipitous discovery in the 19th century to its transformation of consumer electronics and the automotive industry in the 21st century, lithium has proven to be a versatile and indispensable element in our modern lives.

As we continue to harness the potential of lithium in the pursuit of cleaner energy and technological advancement, it is imperative that we do so with a commitment to sustainability and responsible resource management. The story of lithium serves as a reminder of the profound impact that even the smallest elements can have on our world.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 1.10
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 72.769
Covalent Radiues (A): 0.32
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 2.20
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
520.222 7298.15 11815.044 - - - - -

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 1
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
6Li 6.015 7.59 - -
7Li 7.016 92.41 - -

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: Unknown
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 1400
Recycle Rate (%): Unknown
Production Conc.(%) : Unknown
Top 3 Producers:
1) Australia
2) Chile
3) China
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
1) Chile
2) China
3) Australia
Substitutability: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Producer: 74.5
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: 67.5

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: 3582
Shear Modulus: Unknown
Young Modulus: Unknown
Bulk Modulus: 11.1
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
7.90 x 10-11 0.000489 1.08 109 - - - - - - 11.1



Known as the lightest metal on the periodic table, Lithium is one of the alkali metals. The ancient Greek words for stones, lithos, is whence the element gets its title. One of the tiny and least reactive elements, it has a low electron affinity, and tends to form compounds with anions -1 charged. Lithium has a broad Feshbach resonance, which allows it to be scattered in less precise magnetic fields. It is also the only alkali metal with a stable Fermionic isotope. It plays a crucial role in the study of subatomic particles. On the periodic table, lithium has the lowest atomic weight. It has an atomic number of 3 and is located to the left of beryllium. It has emerged as a pivotal material in the creation of modern technology during the last several decades.

Despite its recent popularity, the history of lithium in psychiatry goes back more than a century. It was not until the late 1960s that modern lithium therapy finally got its chance in the spotlight. Lithium is a drug whose potential for treating bipolar disorder is being seriously considered.

The history of lithium reveals some surprising facts about how this miracle drug was introduced to the public. It was not patented, and was available in cheap quantities. However, the scientific community was skeptical about its ability to treat a complex disorder such as bipolar disorder.

Psychiatrists John Cade and Mogens Schou, and chemist Johann August Arfwedson had their own contributions on this field. Among their publications, pioneer work of John Cade was published, and afterwards, it leads to the first randomized clinical trials with lithium but, unfortunately, these trials were poorly designed.

Unlike other alkali metals, lithium is not freely occurring in nature. It is found in minerals and in salty water or mineral springs. Depending on where it is found, lithium has a high concentration in the crust of the Earth. It is also present in geothermal brines and pegmatite ores. This element is found in nature under a number of forms. Its main commercial form is lithium carbonate. It is extracted from brines deep beneath salt lakes. Lithium is also produced from ores and is found in the mineral named Petalite which is also known as castorite. This is the first mineral containing this element and was recognized by Brazilian chemist Jose Banifacio de Andrada in the 1800s. Lithium minerals include amblygonite, and cryolite but the most important lithium mineral is Spodumene. The production of lithium has increased dramatically after the end of World War II.

Lithium is smooth and shiny. You may shape it into wire or roll it into thin sheets. Compared to other alkali metals, lithium and its compounds have different behavior. It is a light metallic element with low density and high specific heat. However, it also has a large temperature interval in the liquid state. Furthermore, the substance has a comparatively significant effective heating potential. This means, that it can remove the non-metallic elements from metals.

Lithium reacts intensely with water, forming lithium hydroxide and highly flammable hydrogen. Metallic lithium is soluble in short chain aliphatic amines. It is an important ingredient in lubricants and greases. Moderately abundant, Lithium is the lightest of all alkali metals and it has one of the lowest melting points of all metals. In addition to its high reactivity, lithium is a strong reducing agent that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. It also reacts with acids and can cause explosive combustion.

Despite its light weight, Lithium is an extremely reactive metal that is widely used in numerous applications. These include electric vehicles, toys, and consumer electronic devices. Furthermore, it has a wide range of medical applications, notably in the condition of bipolar disorder as I said earlier. It is also used in the organic synthesis of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. This element, has also been used in thermonuclear weapons and it has applications in metalworking and stoneware.

When it comes to lithium-ion batteries, as it often heard everywhere nowadays, lithium is an essential ingredient. These batteries are used in various electronic appliances, such as cell phones, electric vehicles, and portable consumer electronics. The batteries have large energy storage capacity and can last for years. They're also easily damaged by excessive power or current.

Initiator of polymers is another application of it. It's also a key ingredient in a variety of organic compounds and is also used to produce lithium aluminum hydride that actually implies in the reduction of esters and ketones.

One example that I want to highlight before ending, is about, Lithium niobate or, sometimes referred to by the brand name linobate. It is a synthetic salt consisting of niobium, lithium, and oxygen. Its single crystals are an important material for optical waveguides, mobile phones, piezoelectric sensors, optical modulators and various other linear and non-linear optical applications.


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. T. L. Cottrell, The Strengths of Chemical Bonds, Butterworth, London, 1954.John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, New York, 2nd Edition, 2011.
. Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, It’s Elemental - The Periodic Table of Elements, accessed December 2014.