Lithium: Lightest but the most impactful Metal

Jul 29 / Chemistry / 4 min read

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Lazy Science Reader,

The Lightest metal on earth - Lithium is in the first group of the periodic table of chemical elements

Except for the third smallest atomic mass, it also has the lowest density of all metals which is two times lower than that of water. Lithium is a shiny metal that can be cut into pieces with a knife when sufficient force is applied. Lithium can be stored in kerosene however due to its low density it will float on the surface. But what makes this metal stand out? What if I say to you, that you are surrounded by lithium and you have lithium in your hand or in front of you right now. Yes, you read it right, batteries made out of lithium known as lithium-ion batteries, are used in every device from smartphones, laptops, tablets to your AirPods and power bank.

Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough, and Akira Yoshino worked on lithium-ion batteries, from the 1970s to the 1980s. We should take a moment and thank them for their hard work and dedication towards the discovery of these batteries, without them we would not have been able to use any device properly and yes, you would not be able to read our blogs (the utmost important thing to do). They were awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2019.
Let’s know how they work. In the batteries, lithium ions move from the negative electrode through an electrolyte to the positive electrode during discharge and back when charging, li-ion batteries use an intercalated lithium compound as the material at the positive electrode. The batteries have a high energy density, so there will be low self-discharge.

The lithium-ion battery is also used in Electrical vehicles. These batteries can also be used to store solar and wind power, which means that with their extensive use, it may even be possible to live in a fuel-free society.

Fun Facts :

  • Pure lithium metal is extremely corrosive and requires special handling. Because it reacts with air and water, the metal is stored under oil or enclosed in an inert atmosphere. When lithium catches fire, the reaction with oxygen makes it difficult to extinguish the flames.
  • The transmutation of lithium to tritium was the first man-made nuclear fusion reaction.