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Facts about Lithium: Applications & Uses

Lithium is a chemical element with Li as its symbol. It belongs to group 1 and period 2 of the periodic table and has an atomic number of 3. It is a part of the alkali metal group of chemical elements.
Lithium was initially found in the mineral petalite. It has also been found in the minerals spodumene and lepidolite.
Lithium has the highest specific heat of any solid element, and is the lightest known metal. It can be readily alloyed with copper, manganese, aluminum, and cadmium to make strong alloys. Lithium is silvery-white in color.
Lithium is soluble in short chain aliphatic amines but is insoluble in hydrocarbons.

Lithium Physical & General Properties

Lithium has a melting point of 180.54 C, a boiling point of 1342 C, a specific gravity of 0.534 (20 C), and a valence of 1. It is the lightest of the metals, with a density approximately half that of water. Under ordinary conditions, lithium is the least dense of the solid elements. It has the highest specific heat of any solid element. Metallic lithium is silvery in appearance. It reacts with water, but not as vigorously as does sodium. Lithium imparts a crimson color to flame, although the metal itself burns a bright white. Lithium is corrosive and requires special handling. Elemental lithium is extremely flammable.

  • Atomic Number: 3
  • Symbol: Li
  • Atomic Weight:  [6.938; 6.997]
    Reference: IUPAC 2009
  • Discovery: 1817, Arfvedson (Sweden)
  • Electron Configuration:  [He]2s1
  • Word Origin Greek: lithos, stone
  • Element Classification: Alkali Metal


Common Uses and Applications of Lithium

Lithium is used in heat transfer applications. It is used as an alloying agent, in synthesizing organic compounds, and is added to glasses and ceramics. Its high electrochemical potential makes it useful for battery anodes. Lithium chloride and lithium bromide are highly hygroscopic, so they are used as drying agents. Lithium stearate is used as a high-temperature lubricant. Lithium has medical applications as well.

The following are the other application areas of lithium:

  • To make special glasses and ceramics
  • In electrical and electronic components
  • To make lubricating greases
  • As a flux for welding or soldering.

Lithium can be formed into many useful compounds. Some are listed below with their specific application areas:

  • Lithium fluoride – in specialist optics for IR, UV and vacuum UV applications
  • Lithium niobate – in non-linear optics applications
  • Lithium chloride and lithium bromide – used as desiccants for gas streams.