Periodic Table > Lithium
 

Terminology


Allotropes
Some elements exist in several different structural forms, these are called allotropes.


For more information on Murray Robertson’s image see Uses/Interesting Facts below.

 

Fact Box Terminology


Group
Elements appear in columns or ‘groups’ in the periodic table. Members of a group typically have similar properties and electron configurations in their outer shell.


Period
Elements are laid out into rows or ‘periods’ so that similar chemical behaviour is observed in columns.


Block
Elements are organised into blocks by the orbital type in which the outer electrons are found. These blocks are named for the characteristic spectra they produce: sharp, principal, diffuse, and fundamental.


Atomic Number
The number of protons in the nucleus.


Atomic Radius/non -bonded (Å)
based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties, for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.


Electron Configuration
The arrangements of electrons above the last (closed shell) noble gas.


Isotopes
Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.


Melting Point (oC)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Melting Point (K)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Melting Point (oF)
The temperature at which the solid-liquid phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (oC)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (K)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Boiling Point (oF)
The temperature at which the liquid-gas phase change occurs.


Sublimation
Elements that do not possess a liquid phase at atmospheric pressure (1 atm) are described as going through a sublimation process.


Density (kgm-3)
Density is the weight of a substance that would fill 1 m3 (at 298 K unless otherwise stated).


Relative Atomic Mass
The mass of an atom relative to that of Carbon-12. This is approximately the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Where more than one isotope exists the value given is the abundance weighted average.


Key Isotopes (% abundance)
An element must by definition have a fixed number of protons in its nucleus, and as such has a fixed atomic number, however variants of an element can exist with differing numbers of neutrons, and hence a different atomic masses (e.g. 12C has 6 protons and 6 neutrons and 13C has 6 protons and 7 neutrons).


CAS number
The Chemical Abstracts Service registry number is a unique identifier of a particular chemical, designed to prevent confusion arising from different languages and naming systems (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).

Fact Box

 
Group Melting point 180.5 oC, 356.9 oF, 453.65 K 
Period Boiling point 1342 oC, 2447.6 oF, 1615.15 K 
Block Density (kg m-3) 533 
Atomic number Relative atomic mass 6.941  
State at room temperature Solid  Key isotopes 7Li 
Electron configuration [He] 2s1  CAS number 7439-93-2 
ChemSpider ID 2293625 ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database
 

Interesting Facts terminology


Image Explanation

Murray Robertson is the artist behind the images which make up Visual Elements. This is where the artist explains his interpretation of the element and the science behind the picture.


Natural Abundance

Where this element is most commonly found in nature.


Biological Roles

The elements role within the body of humans, animals and plants. Also functionality in medical advancements both today and years ago.


Appearance

The description of the element in its natural form.

Uses / Interesting Facts

 
Image explanation

Image based on an alchemical symbol for stone (from the Greek “lithos”) reflecting the fact it was discovered from a mineral while other common alkali metals were discovered from plant material.

Appearance
A silvery coloured metal with the lowest density.
Source

Uses

Lithium has the highest specific heat capacity of any solid element, and is therefore used in many heat transfer applications. However, it is corrosive and requires special handling. It is used as an alloying agent, in the synthesis of organic compounds, and has applications in the nuclear industry. It has a high electrochemical potential so is one of the most widely used battery anode materials. Lithium is also used in special glasses and ceramics. Lithium chloride is one of the most hygroscopic materials known, and is used in air conditioning and industrial drying systems (as is lithium bromide). Lithium stearate is used as an all-purpose and high-temperature lubricant.

Biological role

Lithium has no known natural biological role. Except in very small doses it is toxic, but has found a use, as Lithium carbonate, for the treatment for manic depression, although its action on the brain is still not fully understood.

Natural abundance

Lithium does not occur as the metal in nature, but is found combined in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs. Lepidolite, spodumene, petalite and amblygonite are the more important minerals containing lithium.

 
Atomic Data Terminology

Atomic radius/non -bonded (Å)
Based on Van der Waals forces (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). These values were calculated using a multitude of methods including crystallographic data, gas kinetic collision cross sections, critical densities, liquid state properties,for more details please refer to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.


Electron affinity (kJ mol-1)
The energy released when an additional electron is attached to the neutral atom and a negative ion is formed (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). *


Electronegativity (Pauling scale)
The degree to which an atom attracts electrons towards itself, expressed on a relative scale as a function bond dissociation energies, Ed in eV. χA - χB =(eV)-1/2sqrt(Ed(AB)-[Ed(AA)+Ed(BB)]/2), with χH set as 2.2 (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).


1st Ionisation energy (kJ mol-1)
The minimum energy required to remove an electron from a neutral atom in its ground state (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope).


Covalent radius (Å)
The size of the atom within a covalent bond, given for typical oxidation number and coordination (where several isotopes exist, a value is presented for the most prevalent isotope). ***

Atomic Data

 
Atomic radius, non-bonded (Å) 1.820 Covalent radius (Å) 1.3
Electron affinity (kJ mol-1) 59.612 Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
0.980
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol-1)
 
1st
520.221
2nd
7298.145
3rd
11815.034
4th
-
5th
-
6th
-
7th
-
8th
-
 

Mining/Sourcing Information

Data for this section of the data page has been provided by the British Geological Survey. To review the full report please click here or please look at their website here.


Key for numbers generated


Governance indicators

1 (low) = 0 to 2

2 (medium-low) = 3 to 4

3 (medium) = 5 to 6

4 (medium-high) = 7 to 8

5 (high) = 9


Reserve base distribution

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, Be, As, Na, S, In, Cl, Ca and Ge are allocated a score of 2 since reserve base information is unavailable. Reserve base data are also unavailable for coal; however, reserve data for 2008 are available from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).)


Production Concentration

1 (low) = 0 to 30 %

2 (medium-low) = 30 to 45 %

3 (medium) = 45 to 60 %

4 (medium-high) = 60 to 75 %

5 (high) = 75 %


Crustal Abundance

1 (low) = 100 to 1000 ppm

2 (medium-low) =10 to 100 ppm

3 (medium) = 1 to 10 ppm

4 (medium-high) = 0.1 to 1 ppm

5 (high) = 0.1 ppm

(Where data are unavailable an arbitrary score of 2 was allocated. For example, He is allocated a score of 2 since crustal abundance data is unavailable.)


Explanations for terminology


Crustal Abundance (ppm)

The abundance of an element in the Earth's crust in parts-per-million (ppm) i.e. The number of atoms of this element per 1 million atoms of crust.


Sourced

The country with the largest reserve base.


Reserve Base Distribution

This is a measure of the spread of future supplies, recording the percentage of a known resource likely to be available in the intermediate future (reserve base) located in the top three countries.


Production Concentrations

This reports the percentage of an element produced in the top three countries. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.


Total Governance Factor

The World Bank produces a global percentile rank of political stability. The scoring system is given below, and the values for all three production countries were summed.


Relative Supply Risk Index

The Crustal Abundance, Reserve Base Distribution, Production Concentration and Governance Factor scores are summed and then divided by 2, to provide an overall Relative Supply Risk Index.

Supply Risk

 
Scarcity factor 5.5
Country with largest reserve base Bolivia
Crustal abundance (ppm) 16
Leading producer Australia
Reserve base distribution (%) 49.10
Production concentration (%) 58.60
Total governance factor(production) 5
Top 3 countries (mined)
  • 1) Bolivia
  • 2) Chile
  • 3) China
Top 3 countries (production)
  • 1) Australia
  • 2) China
  • 3) Portugal
 

Oxidation states/ Isotopes


Key for Isotopes


Half Life
  y years
  d days
  h hours
  m minutes
  s seconds
Mode of decay
  α alpha particle emission
  β negative beta (electron) emission
  β+ positron emission
  EC orbital electron capture
  sf spontaneous fission
  ββ double beta emission
  ECEC double orbital electron capture

Terminology


Common Oxidation states
The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as being the charge that an atom would have if all bonds were ionic. Free atoms have an oxidation state of 0, and the sum of oxidation numbers within a substance must equal the overall charge.


Important Oxidation states
The most common oxidation states of an element in its compounds.


Isotopes
Elements are defined by the number of protons in its centre (nucleus), whilst the number of neutrons present can vary. The variations in the number of neutrons will create elements of different mass which are known as isotopes.

Oxidation States / Isotopes

 
Common oxidation states 1
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  6Li 6.015 7.59
  7Li 7.016 92.41
 

Pressure and Temperature - Advanced Terminology


Molar Heat Capacity (J mol-1 K-1)

Molar heat capacity is the energy required to heat a mole of a substance by 1 K.


Young's modulus (GPa)

Young's modulus is a measure of the stiffness of a substance, that is, it provides a measure of how difficult it is to extend a material, with a value given by the ratio of tensile strength to tensile strain.


Shear modulus (GPa)

The shear modulus of a material is a measure of how difficult it is to deform a material, and is given by the ratio of the shear stress to the shear strain.


Bulk modulus (GPa)

The bulk modulus is a measure of how difficult to compress a substance. Given by the ratio of the pressure on a body to the fractional decrease in volume.


Vapour Pressure (Pa)

Vapour pressure is the measure of the propensity of a substance to evaporate. It is defined as the equilibrium pressure exerted by the gas produced above a substance in a closed system.

Pressure / Temperature - Advanced

 
Molar heat capacity
(J mol-1 K-1)
24.86 Young's modulus (GPa) Unknown
Shear modulus (GPa) Unknown Bulk modulus (GPa) 11.1
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
7.9
x 10-11
4.89
x 10-4
1.08 109 - - - - - - -
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History

The first lithium mineral petalite, LiAlSi4O10, was discovered on the Swedish island of Utö by the Brazilian, Jozé Bonifácio de Andralda e Silva in the 1790s. It was observed to give an intense crimson flame when thrown onto a fire. In 1817, Johan August Arfvedson of Stockholm analysed it and deduced it contained a previously unknown metal, which he called lithium. He realised this was a new alkali metal and a lighter version of sodium. However, unlike sodium he was not able to separate it by electrolysis. In 1821 William Brande obtained a tiny amount this way but not enough on which to make measurements. It was not until 1855 that the German chemist Robert Bunsen and the British chemist Augustus Matthiessen obtained it in bulk by the electrolysis of molten lithium chloride.

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Podcasts

Listen to Lithium Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its Element - Lithium


  (Promo)

 

You're listening to Chemistry in its element brought to you by Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry

(End promo)

 

Chris Smith

Hello, this week to the element that tops group one and gives us lighter aircraft and armoured plating.   It also keeps grease running at arctic temperatures, powers pacemakers and lies at the heart of the hydrogen bomb.

 

Matt Wilkinson 

Lithium is rare in the Universe, although it was one of the three elements, along with hydrogen and helium, to be created in the Big Bang. The element was discovered on Earth in 1817 by Johan August Arfvedson (1792-1841) in Stockholm when he investigated petalite, one of the first lithium minerals to be discovered. (It was observed to give an intense crimson flame when sprinkled on to a fire.) He deduced that petalite contained an unknown metal, which he called lithium from the Greek word for a stone, lithos, although he never actually produced any. He reasoned that it was a new alkali metal and lighter than sodium. However, unlike sodium, which Humphry Davy had isolated in 1807 by the electrolysis of sodium hydroxide, Arfvedson was unable to produced lithium by the same method. A sample of lithium metal was finally extracted in 1855 and then by the electrolysis of molten lithium chloride.

Once lithium's discovery had been announced others soon found it to be present in all kinds of things such as grapes, seaweed, tobacco, vegetables, milk and blood. 

Another lithium ore is spodumene, which like petalite is a lithium aluminium silicate, and there is a large deposit of this ore in South Dakota. World production of lithium compounds is around 40 000 tonnes a year and reserves are estimated to be around 7 million tonnes. Industrial production of the metal itself is reported to be about 7500 tonnes a year, and this is produced by the electrolysis of molten lithium chloride and potassium chloride in steel cells at temperatures of 450oC. 

Lithium is moderately toxic as discovered in the 1940s when patients were given lithium chloride as a salt substitute. However, in small doses it is prescribed as a treatment for manic depression (now called bipolar disorder). Its calming effect on the brain was first noted in 1949, by an Australian doctor, John Cade, of the Victoria Department of Mental Hygiene. He had injected guinea pigs with a 0.5% solution of lithium carbonate, and to his surprise these normally highly-strung animals became docile, and indeed were so calm that they would sit in the same position for several hours. Cade then gave his most mentally disturbed   patient an injection of the same solution. The man responded so well that within days he was transferred to a normal hospital ward and was soon back at work. Other patients responded similarly and lithium therapy is now used all around the world to treat this mental condition. How it works is still not known for certain, but it appears to prevent overproduction of a chemical messenger in the brain.

Lithium is used commercially in various ways. Lithium oxide goes into glass and glass ceramics. Lithium metal goes into alloys with magnesium and aluminium, and it improves their strength while making them lighter. Magnesium-lithium alloy is used in protective armour plating and aluminium-lithium reduces the weight of aircraft thereby saving fuel. Lithium stearate, made by reacting stearic acid with lithium hydroxide, is an all-purpose high-temperature grease and most greases contain it. It will even work well at temperatures as low as -60oC and has been used for vehicles in the Antarctic.

Lithium batteries, which operate at 3-volts or more, are used in devices where compactness and lightness are all-important. They are implanted to supply the electrical energy for heart pacemakers. They function with lithium as the anode, iodine as the solid electrolyte, and manganese oxide as the cathode - and they have a lifespan of ten years. This longevity has been extended to lithium batteries of the more common 1.5-volts variety (in which the cathode is iron disulfide) that are in everyday gadgets such as clocks, and lithium is now beginning to be used for rechargeable batteries 

Lithium is a soft, silvery-white, metal that heads group 1, the alkali metals group, of the periodic table of the elements. It reacts vigorously with water. Storing it is a problem. It cannot be kept under oil, as sodium can, because it is less dense and floats. So it is stored by being coated with petroleum jelly. Somewhat surprisingly it does not react with oxygen unless heated to 100oC, but it will react with nitrogen from the atmosphere to form a red-brown compound lithium nitride, Li3N.

The hydrogen of hydrogen bombs is actually the compound lithium hydride, in which the lithium is the lithium-6 isotope and the hydrogen is the hydrogen-2 isotope (deuterium). This compound is capable of releasing massive amounts of energy from the neutrons released by the atomic bomb at its core. These are absorbed by the nuclei of lithium-6 which immediately disintegrates to form helium and hydrogen-3 which then go on to form other elements and as they do the bomb explodes with the force of millions of tonnes of TNT.  

 

Chris Smith

Matt Wilkinson on the extraordinary virtues of element number 3, Lithium.   Next time to one of the universe's rarer chemicals and horribly toxic though it is, without it we'd be the proverbial particle short of a nucleus.

 

Richard Van Noorden

James Chadwick in 1932 discovered the neutron by bombarding a Beryllium sample with the alpha rays eminating from radium .   He observed that the beryllium emitted a new kind of sub-atomic particle which had mass but no charge, the neutron and the combination of radium and beryllium is still used to make neutrons for research purposes, although a million alpha-particles only manage to produce 30 neutrons. 

 

Chris Smith

So that goes to show that sometimes a lot can only go a little way.   Richard Van Noorden will be here with the story of Beryllium on next week's Chemistry in its Element, I hope you can join us.   I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening and goodbye.

 

(Promo)

 

Chemistry in its element is brought to you by the Royal Society of Chemistry and produced by thenakedscientists dot com. There's more information and other episodes of Chemistry in its element on our website at chemistryworld dot org forward slash elements. 

 

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Resources

Description :
Many elements react with oxygen on heating. These reactions and the properties of their products illustrate the periodic nature of the elements.
Description :
A series of short, fun videos exploring the chemistry of the alkali metals, taken from a lecture by Dr. Peter Wothers at the University of Cambridge.
Description :
A series of short, fun videos exploring the chemistry of the alkali metals, taken from a lecture by Dr. Peter Wothers at the University of Cambridge.
Description :
This demonstration experiment can be used to show the flame colours given by alkali metal, alkaline earth metal, and other metal salts.
Description :
A teaching resource on the Group 1 Flame tests, supported by video clips based around the Royal Institution 2012 Christmas Lectures®.
Description :
Many elements react with chlorine on heating. The reactions and the properties of the products illustrate the periodic nature of the elements. The reactions require less energy input to initiate than...
 

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References

 
Images:  Visual Elements © Murray Robertson 2011
Mining and Sourcing data:  British Geological Survey – natural environment research council.
Text:  John Emsley Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2011.
Additional information for platinum, gold, neodymium and dysprosium obtained from Material Value Consultancy Ltd www.matvalue.com
Data: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press, 92nd Edition, 2011.
G. W. C. Kaye and T. H. Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants, Longman, 16th Edition, 1995.
Members of the RSC can access these books through our library.