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Lithium     

Lithium

Atomic Weight 6.941
Density 0.535 g/cm3
Melting Point 180.54 °C
Boiling Point 1342 °C
Full technical data

The lightest metal, lithium easily floats on water, which it reacts with, skittering around releasing hydrogen gas. It's soft enough to cut with hand shears, leaving marks such as you see on this sample.

Scroll down to see examples of Lithium.
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Lithium Lithium carbonate pills

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Lithium carbonate pills.
Another brand of lithium carbonate pills for bipolar disorder.
Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 2 April, 2009
Text Updated: 3 April, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 0.5"
Purity: 13.6%
Sample Group: Medical
Lithium Larger lithium battery

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Larger lithium battery.
This is a lithium battery meant for some kind of camera.
Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 2 April, 2009
Text Updated: 3 April, 2009
Price: $5
Size: 1"
Purity: <10%
Lithium Small lithium battery

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Small lithium battery.
This is a small battery, or really thick button cell, depending on how you look at it.
Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 2 April, 2009
Text Updated: 3 April, 2009
Price: $5
Size: 0.5"
Purity: <10%
Lithium Lithium carbonate pills

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Lithium carbonate pills.
Another view of lithium carbonate pills for bipolar disorder.
Source: Raph Levien
Contributor: Raph Levien
Acquired: 28 March, 2009
Text Updated: 29 March, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 0.15"
Purity: 13.6%
Sample Group: Medical
Lithium Lithium battery

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Lithium battery.
An example of a typical AA lithium battery.
Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 28 March, 2009
Text Updated: 29 March, 2009
Price: $1
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <10%
Lithium Lithium battery

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Lithium battery.
An example of a typical AA lithium battery.
Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 28 March, 2009
Text Updated: 29 March, 2009
Price: $1
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <10%
Lithium Lithium grease

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Lithium grease.
For some reason lithium makes grease better, so they put it in and sell it as "lithium grease".
Source: Harbor Freight Tool Company
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 11 March, 2009
Text Updated: 12 March, 2009
Price: $4
Size: 1"
Purity: <10%
Lithium Vacuum packed slug

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Vacuum packed slug.
This is an amazing rough cylinder of lithium metal. Amazing because it's so incredibly light. It seems to weigh almost nothing, especially if you pick it up knowing it's made of solid metal, which it is. The density of lithium is half that of water, far lighter than anything you normally think of as a light metal (magnesium, beryllium, aluminum, titanium, all these are three to nine times denser than lithium).
It's vacuum packed in plastic to prevent it from rapidly turning into lithium oxide dust: It's not stable in air, and even in this packaging it's not going to last long: You can already see spots of oxidation forming on the surface as air and water diffuse through the plastic. This is of course one reason why people don't make things out of lithium: They wouldn't last long. The other reason is that it's quite soft, useless as a structural metal.
Source: Juan Jimenez
Contributor: Juan Jimenez
Acquired: 11 August, 2007
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 3"
Purity: >99%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Lithium Puffed-up laptop battery

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Puffed-up laptop battery.
Defective lithium laptop battery that puffed up to twice its normal thickness. Here you can see a second one taken out of its outer casing:


Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Wolfram Research
Acquired: 1 January, 2007
Text Updated: 17 February, 2007
Price: $100
Size: 7"
Purity: <5%
Lithium Pacemaker batteries

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Pacemaker batteries.
These batteries are designed to be implanted in patients to power their cardiac pacemakers. The seller reports they are from the liquidation of a biomedical products company and had an original list price of $500 each. Jeez, for that price I'll slice my own chest open and drop in a couple of Duracells. They are probably single-use lithium batteries, but maybe they are lithium-ion rechargeable, I'm not sure. No, I won't sell you one for your pacemaker.
Note that these are, from a safety point of view, probably superior to the one I have listed under plutonium.
Source: eBay seller heruur
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 30 December, 2003
Text Updated: 11 March, 2007
Price: $14.50
Size: 2.5"
Purity: <5%
Sample Group: Medical
Lithium Sample from the Everest Set

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Sample from the Everest Set.
Up until the early 1990's a company in Russia sold a periodic table collection with element samples. At some point their American distributor sold off the remaining stock to a man who is now selling them on eBay. The samples (except gases) weigh about 0.25 grams each, and the whole set comes in a very nice wooden box with a printed periodic table in the lid.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description and information about how to buy one, or you can see photographs of all the samples from the set displayed on my website in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.

Source: Rob Accurso
Contributor: Rob Accurso
Acquired: 7 February, 2003
Text Updated: 20 November, 2008
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: >99%
Lithium Sample from the RGB Set

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Sample from the RGB Set.
The Red Green and Blue company in England sells a very nice element collection in several versions. Max Whitby, the director of the company, very kindly donated a complete set to the periodic table table.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description or the company's website which includes many photographs and pricing details. I have two photographs of each sample from the set: One taken by me and one from the company. You can see photographs of all the samples displayed in a periodic table format: my pictures or their pictures. Or you can see both side-by-side with bigger pictures in numerical order.

The picture on the left was taken by me. Here is the company's version (there is some variation between sets, so the pictures sometimes show different variations of the samples):


Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 25 January, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: 99.4%
Lithium Pills for mood disorders

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Pills for mood disorders.
Lithium, just plain lithium (as a salt), has been used for decades as a treatment for manic-depressive disorders and other illnesses that effect the affect. There aren't very many elements that are used as medical treatments (other than as nutritional supplements like iron and calcium). Two examples, with links to articles about their uses, are carbon (legitimate) and phosphorus (historical). Although the pills actually contain a lithium salt (lithium carbonate), it is the simple lithium that does the work. One theory is that because it is in the same column in the periodic table as sodium and potassium (all are alkali metals), it is able to stand in for them in their important role in the transmission of nerve impulses. By modifying in some poorly understood way how nerve signals propagate, lithium just happens to calm mood swings.

An element is certainly a rather blunt instrument compared to, say, a carefully crafted organic molecule, but if it does the job, who's to complain?

The source of this sample, Raph Levien, is as fascinated as I am by the fact that plain lithium is still a popular mood-stabilizing medication. A family member of his switched from lithium to a different medication around the same time he discovered my Periodic Table, so naturally he thought of contributing the leftover pills to the table. (There's a lesson here for anyone reading this who has a spare element handy....)

I was a bit surprised at how many pills he sent, especially after reading that as few as 20 can be fatal. (The toxic dose is very close to the therapeutic dose, and since these pills are given to people who are, well, depressed, you can imagine that some care has to be take to avoid suicide attempts!) I've sealed a sub-lethal dose in a plastic display container and locked the rest up for safekeeping.

Raph also supplied the following interesting URLs about lithium as a medication:
jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v281n24/ffull/jmn0623-1.html
anil299.tripod.com/vol_001_no_002/pg001.html
www.adelaideoldterraces.com.au/aap/

The purity (weight-percent lithium) of the sample was easy to calculate (especially after Yehoshua Sivan pointed out the error in my first attempt). The pills weigh 0.4163g each and are clearly labeled as containing 300mg (0.3g) of lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) each. Multiply this ratio by the ratio of twice the atomic weight of lithium to the molecular weight of lithium carbonate and you learn that the pills are about 13.6% elemental lithium.

Source: Raph Levien
Contributor: Raph Levien
Acquired: 30 December, 2002
Text Updated: 11 March, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.15"
Purity: 13.6%
Sample Group: Medical
Lithium Lumps

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Lumps.
The irritating thing about storing lithium is that it floats on the oil. That means unless you completely fill the jar, there's always a bit poking out above the oil, and that part starts oxidizing. The effect of which you can clearly see in the picture of this sample.

Click the source link for an interesting story about where this sample came from.

I chose this sample to represent its element in my Photographic Periodic Table Poster. The sample photograph includes text exactly as it appears in the poster, which you are encouraged to buy a copy of.
Periodic Table Poster

Source: Tryggvi Emilsson and Timothy Brumleve
Contributor: Tryggvi Emilsson and Timothy Brumleve
Acquired: 6 September, 2002
Text Updated: 4 May, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.75"
Purity: >99%
Lithium Lithium oxide crystals

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Lithium oxide crystals.
If you had some thin lithium foil what would you do with it? I thought that maybe I could melt it into a lump, if I bathed the crucible in helium from a small balloon-filling tank (to prevent rapid oxidation) as I heated it from below. I was wrong.
Even with the helium shield gas, the lithium ignited almost immediately, and then proceeded to burn in much the same way lump magnesium does, only much faster (especially after I turned off the helium). This probably means I wasn't getting enough helium around the crucible, and some moist air was working its way in. Or maybe my helium, which just came from a disposable balloon filling tank, contained an oxygen impurity, which is not at all unlikely. Another possibility is that there was chemical contamination from the battery that permitted combustion.
(After seeing this, reader Walt Zarnoch sent the following: "I just read your page about melting lithium. You jarred my memory when you were talking about the possibility of oxygen impurities in the gas. I have heard that some of the suppliers of helium intended for store kits actually add oxygen intentionally, in small quantity, to the gas so that kids like me don't suffocate when inhaling helium from a balloon." So, that explains that. These days I have a large tank of argon for these purposes.)

I decided to change plans and just let a bigger piece of it (folded up tightly into a lump) burn itself out in the crucible. It lit instantly with a propane torch and burned quite dramatically, and very, very hotly. It actually cracked the tiny thimble-sized ceramic crucible I had it in. (Mind you, this is (was) a high-temperature ceramic crucible intended for burning and melting things in. It's not supposed to crack just because you make it hot.)

The explanation for this was kindly provided by reader Yehoshua Sivan from Israel, who wrote as follows:
About 27 years ago I thought I would melt lithium in a ceramic crucible, and then suck it up into a glass tube (using a propipet, not my mouth!), to preserve a specimen, as I had already done with sodium and potassium [incidentally the specimens prepared then are as shiny today as when prepared originally; the oxide at the open ends of the tube acts as a plug preventing further oxidation, and the tube is kept in paraffin oil anyway]. Well, the lithium ignited, I beat a hasty retreat and watched the reaction through the crack in the door, and after some kind of explosion a piece of burning lithium fell on the brand new asbestos table (yes, they were still fitting asbestos tables then), where it also exploded, leaving a hole in the surface. I subsequently explained to my colleagues that now the table really looked as if it belonged to a chemistry laboratory.

I thought then, and I see no reason to think otherwise now, that this was a simple oxidation-reduction reaction, in which the lithium "steals" the oxygen from the silicon dioxide and other oxides in the ceramic (and in the asbestos). The reaction is analogous to the well known magnesium-sand reaction, or to the formation of a black silicon mark on test-tubes in which Mg or Na has been burned (e.g. in the classic magnesium burning in steam reaction, or when I burn sodium in a flow of chlorine).
Sounds very familiar. This being a small world, I suppose it should come as no surprise to anyone that Yehoshua has been proof-reading the Hebrew translation of Uncle Tungsten, whose author Oliver Sacks recently came to visit me, and that Sacks' mother was Yehoshua's mother's family doctor. Nope, doesn't surprise me at all.

Yehoshua also pointed out two interesting articles about the great lithium fire of 1998, which occurred at a chemical waste dump in Israel: Article 1, article 2.

Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 12 August, 2002
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $3
Size: 1"
Purity: <50%
Lithium Long-life AA battery

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Long-life AA battery.
Initially only used in fancy camera batteries, lithium is now available in AA and 9V batteries for use in things like smoke detectors and digital cameras. They are more expensive than regular batteries, but last a lot longer which makes the cost per unit of energy competitive. They also have a very long shelf life compared to other batteries so they do well in emergency flashlights and the like.
Source: Radio Shack
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 7 August, 2002
Price: $3
Size: 2"
Purity: <5%
Lithium Mica sheet

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Mica sheet.
This is a sheet of mica, a papery thin mineral that was often used as an electrical insulator. The term mica refers to a range of specific minerals and I don't know which one this is exactly, so the composition is just a guess.
Source: Mark Peterson
Contributor: Mark Peterson
Acquired: 13 January, 2010
Text Updated: 13 January, 2010
Price: Donated
Size: 3"
Composition: (KLi2Al(Al,Si)3O10(F,OH)2
Lithium Kunzite

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Kunzite.
Kunzite.
Source: Jensan Scientifics
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 April, 2009
Text Updated: 27 April, 2009
Price: Anonymous
Size: 0.5"
Composition: LiAl[Si2O6]
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Lithium Elbaite

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Elbaite.
Description from the source:
Elbaite (Na (Li Al)3 Al6 (BO3)3 Si6 O18 (OH)4 trig.), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Isolated, terminated crystal with rare pink-orange color. 2,3x0,8x0,8 cm; 4 g.
Source: Simone Citon
Contributor: John Gray
Acquired: 28 January, 2009
Text Updated: 29 January, 2009
Price: Trade
Size: 1"
Composition: Na(LiAl)3Al6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH)4
Lithium Lepidolite

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Lepidolite.
Description from the source:
Lepidolite (K (Li Al)3 (Si Al)4 O10 (F OH)2 mon.), Aracuai`, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Little crystals on clear Quartz. 1,2x0,8x0,8 cm: 1 g.
Source: Simone Citon
Contributor: John Gray
Acquired: 10 January, 2009
Text Updated: 10 January, 2009
Price: Trade
Size: 0.5"
Composition: K(Li,Al)3(Si,Al)4O10(F,OH)2
Lithium Lepidolite

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Lepidolite.
Description from the source:
Lepidolite (K (Li Al)3 (Si Al)4 O10 (F OH)2 mon.), Varutra"sk, Skellefteao, Va"sterbotten, Sweden. Laminar deep purple crystals on matrix. 5x3,5x3 cm; 45 g.
Source: Simone Citon
Contributor: John Gray
Acquired: 19 November, 2008
Text Updated: 20 November, 2008
Price: Trade
Size: 2"
Composition: K(LiAl)3(SiAl)4O10(FOH)2
Lithium Photo Card Deck of the Elements

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Photo Card Deck of the Elements.
In late 2006 I published a photo periodic table and it's been selling well enough to encourage me to make new products. This one is a particularly neat one: A complete card deck of the elements with one big five-inch (12.7cm) square card for every element. If you like this site and all the pictures on it, you'll love this card deck. And of course if you're wondering what pays for all the pictures and the internet bandwidth to let you look at them, the answer is people buying my posters and cards decks. Hint hint.
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 19 November, 2008
Text Updated: 21 November, 2008
Price: $35
Size: 5"
Composition: HHeLiBeBCNOFNeNaMg AlSiPSClArKCaScTiVCrMn FeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAg CdInSnSbTeIXeCsBaLaCePr NdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTm YbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTl PbBiPoAtRnFrRaAcThPaUNp PuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRf DbSgBhHsMtDsRgUubUutUuq UupUuhUusUuo
Lithium Elbaite

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Elbaite.
Description from the source:
Elbaite (Na (Li Al)3 Al6 (BO3)3 Si6 O18 (OH)4 trig.), Stak Nala, Haramosh, Skardu, Baltistan, Pakistan. Fascicular crystals on matrix. 4x2,5x1,5 cm; 12 g.
Source: Simone Citon
Contributor: John Gray
Acquired: 30 October, 2008
Text Updated: 31 October, 2008
Price: Trade
Size: 1.5"
Composition: Na(LiAl)3Al6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH)4
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Lithium Petalite

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Petalite.
Description from the source:
Petalite (Li Al Si4 O10 mon.), Mogok, Myanmar (Burma). Isolated, fracturated beige crystal, rare. 2,5x1,6x1 cm; 5 g.
Source: Simone Citon
Contributor: John Gray
Acquired: 30 September, 2008
Text Updated: 1 October, 2008
Price: Trade
Size: 1"
Composition: LiAlSi4O10
Lithium Triphylite from Jensan Set

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Triphylite from Jensan Set.
This sample represents phosphorus in the "The Grand Tour of the Periodic Table" mineral collection from Jensan Scientifics. Visit my page about element collecting for a general description, or see photographs of all the samples from the set in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.
Source: Jensan Scientifics
Contributor: Jensan Scientifics
Acquired: 17 March, 2003
Text Updated: 28 November, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 1"
Composition: LiFePO4
Lithium Lepidolite from Jensan Set

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Lepidolite from Jensan Set.
This sample represents lithium in the "The Grand Tour of the Periodic Table" mineral collection from Jensan Scientifics. Visit my page about element collecting for a general description, or see photographs of all the samples from the set in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.
Source: Jensan Scientifics
Contributor: Jensan Scientifics
Acquired: 17 March, 2003
Price: Donated
Size: 1"
Composition: K(Li,Al)3(Si,Al)4O10(F,OH)2
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!