Lithium is a highly reactive metal in group one of the periodic table. Because of this it is stored within oil, so it will not react in transit. It is also somewhat unstable, so is not as abundant within the universe as may be expected with its low atomic number.
Lithium was discovered in 1817 by Johan Arfwedson working the laboratory of Jöns Jakob Berzelius, whilst analysing petaline ore. It was given the name lithium after the Greek word lithos meaning "stone".
It was isolated in 1821 by William Thomas Brande, using the process of electrolysis, and commercial production began in 1923, using electrolysis on a liquid mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride
Properties and Chemistry
Although highly reactive compared to many elements in the periodic table, lithium has a low reactivity compared to other elements in group one due to how close the valence electron is to the nucleus.
It is superconductive below 400μK at standard pressure, and at higher pressures above this temperature.
Lithium is naturally composed of two different isotopes 6Li and 7Li, of which 7Li is the most abundant. Other isotopes also exist, but are highly unstable.
In order to produce pure lithium, electrolysis may be used on brine containing lithium within underground pools, and from salt lakes. Lithium is also contained in igneous rocks and can be found in certain clays, although this is a lower grade source. Although there are a large number of low grade and small lithium deposits, very few of these are economical for extraction.
One major use for lithium is in electronics. Lithium-Ion batteries became popular in the late 20th century, due to their rechargeability and their high energy density. The technology became more popular as it matured and is now powering devices from mobile phones to electric cars, including the Tesla Model S.
The use of lithium and lithium compounds in batteries and other industrial applications, consumes more than three quarters of the worlds production annually.
The isotope lithium-6 is used as a source material for tritium production, an isotope of hydrogen, which could be used for nuclear fusion. It was also used in early versions of the hydrogen bomb.
Lithium is used within some medicine, for treating mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, however it can have severe side effects. As such the NHS recommends regular blood tests and kidney function tests, once every three months and at least once every year respectively.