What is Lithium?

What Does Lithium Mean

We explain what lithium is and where this chemical element comes from. Discovery, uses and presence in the human body.

Lithium, in its pure form, is a soft, silvery-white, extremely light metal.

What is lithium?

Lithium (Li) is one chemical element diamagnetic but highly reactive alkaline metallic , rapid oxidation in air or water . In its pure form is a metal soft, colored extremely light silvery white and it is not in free state in nature .

It is an element similar to sodium, moderately abundant on our planet, especially in volcanic routes or salt flats (85% of its reserves are in Bolivian, Chilean and Argentine territory). Along with hydrogen and helium, lithium is one of the very first elements in the universe , whose creation would respond to the same big bang .

Its name comes from the Greek word lithios, which means "stone", since it was discovered in ancient times as part of large rocks. Its modern understanding dates back to 1817, when Johann Arfvedson discovered it in a petalite mine in Sweden. It was obtained by electrolysis much later, however, and its commercialization began in 1923 by a German company .

Like the other alkali metals, lithium is highly flammable and potentially explosive once exposed to air or, even more so, to water. It is also corrosive and in large quantities it can be toxic, by inhibiting the absorption of iodine vital to thyroid hormones.

It can help you: Electrical conductivity

Uses of lithium

The electrochemical potential of lithium is ideal for the anode of electric batteries.

Lithium has the following applications:

  • Psychopharmaceuticals. Lithium salts (such as lithium carbonate) are used in psychiatric medicine as a mood stabilizer, since they inhibit the episodes of mania and depression associated with bipolar illness and other mood disorders.
  • Dryers. Compounds such as lithium nitrate, lithium chloride or lithium bromide have high hygroscopicity, that is, they greatly absorb atmospheric humidity , thus allowing the air to dry in closed compartments.
  • Debuggers. To remove carbon dioxide from the air , lithium hydroxide is used as a scrubber in submarines and spacecraft.
  • Alloys . It is used in alloys with aluminum, cadmium, copper and manganese to make ceramics, lenses, and in aircraft construction.
  • Lubricants Certain salts of lithium and stearic acid, such as lithium stearate, are used in the manufacture of lubricants for use at high temperatures .
  • Manufacture of batteries . Its electrochemical potential makes it ideal for the anode (positive pole) of electric batteries.

Lithium in the periodic table

Lithium is found together with the rest of the alkali metals such as sodium and potassium.

Lithium is represented by the chemical symbol Li and is found in the periodic table in group 1, along with the rest of the alkali metals such as sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), cesium (Cs) and francio (Fr). Its atomic number is 3.

Lithium in the human body

Lithium can damage the human body , for example when it comes into contact with the skin. Being a powerful desiccant, it quickly extracts moisture from it, causing burns.

The ingestion of compounds with lithium in controlled amounts can be beneficial in the face of certain psychiatric conditions since it acts on certain neurotransmitters, stabilizing the mood.

However, it increases cell permeability by replacing sodium in cell membranes , preventing the performance of the sodium potassium ATPase substrate pump, which is toxic on a large scale.

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