- Lithium is an alkali metal,
and like all the other alkali metals, it reacts spontaneously with
water, liberating hydrogen gas.
- Lithium is the lightest of
all metals, with a density only about half that of water. It does not
occur free in nature; combined it is found in small amounts in nearly
all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs.
- Lithium minerals occur
mainly in granitic pegmatites. Spodumene, a lithium-aluminum silicate,
and naturally occurring lithium-containing brines are the main sources
of lithium.Lithium is most commonly extracted from spodumene.
- It is used as a desgasifier
and refining agent for molten metals and in the production of copper and
- The lithium fluoride is used
in the manufacturing of prisms and infrared spectrophotometers and it is
used in the production of enamels. The lithium chloride and bromide can
be used as drying agents and are also used as lubricants. One of the
most imp ortant applications of this element is in the reagent
preparation for organic synthesis, in particular of the complex hydrides
of aluminum and boron, with widespread applications.
- Lithium salts can be used to
suppress alkali-silica reactions in concrete.
- Today, lithium is
administered to patients as a lithium salt, usually as lithium carbonate
or lithium citrate, which is taken by mouth in capsule, tablet, or syrup
form. Pharmaceutical companies often assign a "trade name" to their
products. Examples of trade names for lithium are Cibalith, Eskalith,
Lithane, and Lithobid.
- It is also an important
battery anode material, used in lithium ion batteries due to its high
electrochemical potential. In addition to being lighter than the
standard dry cell, these batteries produce a higher voltage (3 volts
versus 1.5 volts).
- Chile, China and the United
States are the world’s leading producers of lithium ore and brine. Other
significant producers include Argentina, Brazil, Australia,
Portugal,Russia and Zimbabwe.
- The United States is the
largest producer and consumer of lithium minerals and compounds
worldwide.In Canada, lithium is primarily consumed by the aluminum
industry as lithium carbonate.
- Prices of lithium carbonate
rose by 20% in 2005 and growth of up to 25% is forecast by Roskill
Consulting Group for 2006, bringing prices back to the peak levels seen
prior to SQM's entry into the market in 1996. New capacity due on-stream
in Chile, Argentina and China is forecast to alleviate the upward
pressure on prices after 2007.
- China may emerge as a
significant producer of brine-based lithium carbonate towards the end of
this decade. Potential capacity of up to 45,000 tonnes per year could
come on-stream if projects in Qinghai province and Tibet proceed.
- Portable electronic consumer
products will remain the main area of growth for secondary batteries
through 2010, with shipments to the Asian cellular phone market alone
estimated to rise by 50%py and growth rates in Russia and Poland
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