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LITHIUM

  • Lithium
  • Mines Producing Lithium

Also Known As : Alkali Metalgroup

In normal circumstances lithium is the least dense and lightest of the solid elements and like all alkali metals is flammable and highly reactive. This is the reason it is usually stored in mineral oil. When lithium is opened up a metallic cluster is observed and it is found that when it is exposed to moist air its surface quickly takes on a black to silver-gray tarnish. Lithiums high reactivity doesn't allow it occur freely in nature. Therefore it can only exist in compounds which are normally ionic.


Lithium does however occur in many pegmatitic minerals, these are found in granite rocks that are composed of mica, feldspar and quartz. However, due to lithiums solubility as an ion it is also commonly found to exist in ocean water, clays and brines. Commercially, lithium can be isolated electrolytically from a mixture of potassium chloride and lithium chloride.


Lithium nuclei verges on instability and because of this it is not common in the solar system despite its nuclei being very light in the atomic weight sense. This makes it extremely important in nuclear physics and led to the transmutation of lithium atoms to helium in 1932 thereby creating the first man made nuclear reaction and lithium-6 deuteride serving as a fusion fuel in thermonuclear weapons.


Lithium compounds have many industrial applications, particularly those where heat resistance is required in certain glass and ceramic products, lithium-ion batteries, lithium batteries and strength to weight alloys used in aircraft.


The Many Uses of Lithium:


Lubricating – Lithium hydroxide, when heated with fat creates a soap, lithium stearate. This is able
to thicken oil and is an efficient lubricant able to withstand high temperatures.
Electrical – An important battery electrode that is able to generate higher voltage than lead acid or zinc carbon cell batteries.
Glass and ceramics – Lithium oxide is used as a flux when processing silica to reduce the viscosity and melting point of the material being processed.
Metallurgy – Metalic lithium is used as a flux for soldering and welding by facilitating the fusing of metals and eliminating oxide forming. Lithium also alloys with aluminium manganese and copper for use as aircraft components.
Optics – lithium fluoride can be artificially grown as a crystal for its clarity and transparency to be used in various optical applications. It is used in this form as focal lenses in telescopes. Lithium applications are used more that 60 percent of mobile phones.
Polytechnics – As an oxidiser in the making of red flares.
Purification of air – Lithium hydroxide and lithium peroxide are used in confined areas as air purifiers in situations such as aboard spacecraft and in submarines for the removal of carbon dioxide. Lithium peroxide not only absorbs carbon in the presence of carbon it also releases oxygen. Lithium perchlorate is used in submarines as oxygen candles for the supply of oxygen.
Defence - Metallic lithium, along with certain complex hybrids, is used as a high energy additive in rocket propellants. A block of solid lithium sprayed with sulphur hexafluoride gas creates heat which is used to create steam that propels torpedos. Large amounts of lithium-6 produced by isotope separation is used in nuclear weapons.
Medicine – Lithium compounds have been found useful in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Lithium salts are showing promise as being useful in diagnosing cyclic major depression and schizoaffective disorder. Trace amounts of lithium is present in all organisms although it appears to have no effect on any biological functions.


Australia is a Leading Producer of Lithium


Lithium minerals that contain lithia (Li20) such as lepidolite, petalite and spodumene are mined from underground and open pit sources in Australia, which is one of the world's largest producers along with China, Zimbabwe and Canada. Australia currently has eight companies producing lithium.

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