What is Lithium?
- Lithium is light weight, has a high specific heat capacity and high electro-chemical potential, which make it an irreplaceable component in many technologies, including batteries.
Lithium is a soft metal, the lightest in the periodic table with a density of 0.534 g/cm3 (about half that of water), with a silvery white appearance that reacts immediately with water and air. Lithium has an atomic weight of 6.938, is the third element in the periodic table and the first element in the alkali metals group1. It was discovered by a Swedish scientist, Johan August Arfwedson, in 1817.
Lithium also has the highest electrochemical potential of all metals. These properties provide very high energy and power densities for batteries, for long useful life in small and comparatively lightweight packages, that is also driving growth in demand.
Like other metals in its group, lithium is so chemically active that it does not occur as a pure element in nature, but is contained within stable minerals or salts. The contained concentration of lithium is generally low and there are only a limited number of resources where lithium can be economically extracted.
Lithium and its chemical compounds exhibit a broad range of beneficial properties including:
- The highest electrochemical potential of all metals
- An extremely high co-efficient of thermal expansion
- Fluxing and catalytic characteristics
- Acting as a viscosity modifier in glass melts
- Low density
- Low atomic mass
As a result, lithium is used in numerous applications which can be divided into two broad categories: chemical applications and technical applications2.
1 Kunasz, I, 2006. Lithium Resources
2 Fox Davies, 2013. The Lithium Market