Lithium – Characteristics and Properties

Lithium is the third element in the Periodic Table and it is marked with the chemical symbol of Li. Lithium belongs to group 1 elements (which is known as Alkali metals) in the periodic table of elements, preceded by Helium and followed by Beryllium.


Physical Characteristics of Lithium

Lithium is an alkali metal. It is the lightest metal in the alkali group and it possesses the least density of all solid elements. It appears in soft, white color with silver hues and just like any other alkali metal, it is highly flammable. Its natural physical state is solid. It can float freely in any liquid, as its density is nearly twice as light as the water’s density. However, because of its high reactivity to water and its high oxidation, which occurs when exposed to oxygen, Lithium is usually stored in containers filled with mineral oil.


Chemical Properties of Lithium

RELATIVE ATOMIC MASS 6.941 (6.9410 g/mol)
DENSITY ( G CM-3) 0.534 at room temperature; 0.512 in liquid state
180.50 C;
356.90 F
1330 C;
2426 F


Discovery of Lithium

Lithium was first recognized as a new element concentrated in petalite ore back in 1817 by a Swedish chemist, named Johan August Arfwedson. He detected its presence, but was unable to fully isolate it. The element was fully discovered after an English chemist, named William Thomas Brande, successfully isolated it 1821 when he performed electrolysis on lithium oxide. The element was named by Jöns Jakob Berzelius after the Greek word “lithos”, which means “stone” in English.


Recognized by: Johan August Arfwedson (1817)

Known and discovered by: William Thomas Brande (1821)

Named by: Jöns Jakob Berzelius



Uses and Role of Lithium

Lithium and all of its compounds have a large application in the metallurgy industry, especially in electronics, glass and ceramics, and even in optics.

Its melting point is the highest melting point in any alkali metal. Due to its heat-resistant properties Lithium is largely used in heat-resistant glazes and ceramics. The high electrode potential and the low density of this element make it an extremely important component in present-day electronics, such as disposable lithium batteries, smartphone li-on batteries, and nanowire batteries. Around ¾ of all worldwide Lithium production finds application in electronics. Lithium fluoride, also known as LiF crystal, is used in optics for UV, VUV and IR applications because of its transparency to short UV waves and its large band gap. Another one of its uses is in pyrotechnics. Some Lithium compounds are used in the manufacturing of red flares and fireworks as colorants, because Lithium salts have the ability to add a bright, vibrant red color to flames as a result of the element’s oxidation.

Lithium carbonate

Lithium Bicarbonate is used for curing of bipolar disorder or the manic depressive disorder.Usage up on prescribed by a doctor, courses etc helps to reduce the frequency in occurrence of manic sequence.


Lithium in Earth

Tiny amounts of Lithium can be traced in any organism on our planet, mainly in plankton, invertebrates and plants. Because of its low density this element doesn’t serve any biological function known to scientists. It has been discovered that marine creatures can bio-accumulate the presence of Lithium more than the terrestrial organisms can, and the element is notorious for its high reactivity with water.

Lithium does not occur freely in nature, but its ionic compounds can be traced into all sorts of organisms, in ocean water, and in many pegmatite minerals.


Ever since its discovery in the early 1800s Lithium has become an important part of chemistry, physics, electronics and present-day metallurgy. One of its most ground-breaking applications, however, is in medicine. It has been proven that Lithium ions concentrated in Lithium salts can be used as effective mood-stabilizing drugs when it comes to treating patients suffering from bipolar disorders.