Electrochemical cell harvests lithium from seawater

Lithium is a vital element in the batteries that power electric vehicles, but soaring lithium demand is expected to exhaust land-based reserves by 2080. KAUST researchers have now developed an economically viable system that ...

Phonon catalysis could lead to a new field

Batteries and fuel cells often rely on a process known as ion diffusion to function. In ion diffusion, ionized atoms move through solid materials, similar to the process of water being absorbed by rice when cooked. Just like ...

Scientists to take a new step in microelectronics' development

Researchers at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) developed a new approach to determine the best electrode materials composition for solid-state lithium-ion batteries. The results of the study were ...

Magnetic nanoparticles pull valuable elements from water sources

A clever idea to use magnetic nanoparticles to capture valuable materials from brines has blossomed into industrial-scale pilot projects that could help make the U.S. a producer of critical minerals used in electronics and ...

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Lithium

Lithium (pronounced /ˈlɪθiəm/) is the chemical element with atomic number 3, and is represented by the symbol Li. It is a soft alkali metal with a silver-white color. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals lithium is highly reactive, corroding quickly in moist air to form a black tarnish. For this reason lithium metal is typically stored under the cover of oil. When cut open lithium exhibits a metallic luster, but contact with oxygen quickly turns it back to a dull silvery gray color. Lithium in its elemental state is highly flammable.

According to theory, lithium was one of the few elements synthesized in the Big Bang. Since its current estimated abundance in the universe is vastly less than that predicted by theory; the processes by which new lithium is created and destroyed, and the true value of its abundance, continue to be active matters of study in astronomy. The nuclei of lithium are relatively fragile: the two stable lithium isotopes found in nature have lower binding energies per nucleon than any other stable compound nuclides, save for the exotic and rare deuterium, and 3He. Though very light in atomic weight, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements.

Due to its high reactivity it only appears naturally in the form of compounds. Lithium occurs in a number of pegmatitic minerals, but is also commonly obtained from brines and clays. On a commercial scale, lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.

Trace amounts of lithium are present in the oceans and in some organisms, though the element serves no apparent vital biological function in humans. However, the lithium ion Li+ administered as any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood stabilizing drug due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body. Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft, and lithium batteries. Lithium also has important links to nuclear physics. The transmutation of lithium atoms to tritium was the first man-made form of a nuclear fusion reaction, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion fuel in staged thermonuclear weapons.

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