Lithium is a silvery-white metal that has an atomic number of 3 and the chemical symbol Li. It is typically the lightest of all metals, and also the lightest solid element. Lithium is an alkali metal, and it is highly flammable. How many of the lithium facts that we’ve collected did you already know?
- Lithium is so soft it can easily be cut with a knife: It also has a very low melting point of just 180 °C, although that is relatively high compared to other alkali metals.
- Along with sodium and potassium, lithium is one of only three types of metals that is light enough to float on water: The density of lithium is so low that it is quite similar to that of wood.
- Lithium is very flammable, and under certain conditions it can explode: Exposure to water can cause an explosion, and a fire caused by lithium can be quite difficult to put out, requiring a special fire extinguisher.
- At present, Australia is leading the world in terms of lithium production: As of 2016, 14,300 tonnes of lithium were mined in Australia, while Chile was not far behind at 12,000 tonnes. It is estimated Argentina hat the world’s largest reserves of lithium at around 9 million tonnes.
- While Lithium is a fairly commonly found element, present almost all over the world, it is typically found in very low concentrations: In fact, it is the 25th most common element on earth. It is even found in seawater, but at a very low concentration of around 0.2 parts per million.
- Johan August Arfwedson, a Swedish chemist, is credited with the discovery of Lithium in 1817: Arfwedson was studying the mineral petalite when he made the find.
- Lithium demand ramped up significantly during the Cold War due to its applications in nuclear fusion weapons: During this time, the US became the world’s leading producer of lithium.
- Demand for lithium has grown significantly in recent years as it becomes an increasingly crucial component in batteries for consumer goods: The latest figures suggest 12% annual growth in demand, which cannot be supported by the current rate of production.
- Lithium batteries have been banned on certain types of transportation – particularly on aircraft – due to concerns of explosions or fire: One theory regarding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 relates to a possible consignment of lithium-ion batteries the plane may have had in the cargo hold.
- Lithium, in the form of lithium salts, is used a medication for humans, particularly as psychiatric medication: Studies have found that areas with high rates of lithium in drinking water sources have lower rates of suicide.
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