Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol Li, and it has the atomic number 3. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive, corroding quickly in moist air to form a black tarnish. For this reason, lithium metal is typically stored under the cover of petroleum. When cut open, lithium exhibits a metallic lustre, but contact with oxygen quickly turns it back to a dull silvery grey color. Lithium in its elemental state is highly flammable.
The nuclei of lithium are relatively fragile: the two stable lithium isotopes found in nature have lower binding energies per nucleon than any other stable compound nuclides, save deuterium, and helium-3. Though very light in atomic weight, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements.
Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys. Lithium also has important links to nuclear physics. The transmutation of lithium atoms to tritium was the first man-made form of a nuclear fusion reaction, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion fuel.
Like the other alkali metals, lithium has a single valence electron that is easily given up to form a cation. Because of this, it is a good conductor of both heat and electricity and highly reactive, though it is the least reactive of the alkali metals due to the proximity of its valence electron to its nucleus.
Lithium is soft enough to be cut with a knife, and it is the lightest of the metals of the periodic table. It also has a low density (approximately 0.534 g/cm3) and thus will float on water, with which it reacts easily. This reaction is energetic, forming hydrogen gas and lithium hydroxide in aqueous solution. Because of its reactivity with water, lithium is usually stored under cover of a dense hydrocarbon, often petroleum jelly; though the heavier alkali metals can be stored in less dense substances, such as mineral oil. Lithium possesses a low coefficient of thermal expansion and the highest specific heat capacity of any solid element.In moist air, lithium metal rapidly tarnishes to form a black coating of lithium hydroxide (LiOH and LiOH·H2O), lithium nitride (Li3N) and lithium carbonate (Li2CO3, the result of a secondary reaction between LiOH and CO2). When placed over a flame, lithium gives off a striking crimson color, but when it burns strongly the flame becomes a brilliant silver. Lithium will ignite and burn in oxygen when exposed to water or water vapours. Lithium metal is flammable, and it is potentially explosive when exposed to air and especially to water, though less so than the other alkali metals. The lithium-water reaction at normal temperatures is brisk but not violent, though the hydrogen produced can ignite. Lithium is the only metal which reacts with nitrogen under normal conditions. According to modern cosmological theory, both stable isotopes of lithium 6-Li and 7-Li were among the 3 elements synthesized in the Big Bang. Though the amount of lithium generated in Big Bang nucleosynthesis is dependent upon the number of photons per baryon, for accepted values the lithium abundance can be calculated, and there is a "cosmological lithium discrepancy" in the universe: older stars seem to have less lithium than they should, and some younger stars have far more. The lack of lithium in older stars is apparently caused by the "mixing" of lithium into the interior of stars, where it is destroyed. Furthermore, lithium is produced in younger stars. Though it transmutes into two atoms of helium due to collision with a proton at temperatures above 2.4 million degrees Celsius (most stars easily attain this temperature in their interiors), lithium is more abundant than predicted in later-generation stars, for causes not yet completely understood. Though it was one of the 3 first elements to be synthesized in the Big Bang, lithium, as well as beryllium and boron are markedly less abundant than the elements with either lower or higher atomic number. This is due to the low temperature necessary to destroy lithium, and a lack of common processes to produce it. Lithium is also found in brown dwarf stars and certain anomalous orange stars. Because lithium is present in cooler, less-massive brown dwarf stars, but is destroyed in hotter red dwarf stars, its presence in the stars' spectra can be used in the "lithium test" to differentiate the two, as both are smaller than the Sun. Certain orange stars can also contain a high concentration of lithium. Those orange stars found to have a higher than usual concentration of lithium (such as Centaurus X-4) orbit massive objects—neutron stars or black holes—whose gravity evidently pulls heavier lithium to the surface of a hydrogen-helium star, causing more lithium to be observed.
The base value of each unit of ranges between 5 and 20Ð per unit, with up to 3 units being found at any one time.
Presence on Mars: Common
|Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6|
|Group 1|||Aluminum | Arsenic | Beryllium | Boron | Calcium | Cantite | Carbon | Chlorine | Chromium | Cobalt | Copper | Flourine | Helium| | Hydrogen | Iron | Lithium | Magnesium | Manganese | Nickel | Oxygen | Phosphorus | Plesium | Potassium | Silicon | Sodium||