Lithium is a silvery-white alkali metal, one of the soft metals that you can easily cut with a knife. Just like other alkali metals, lithium is a highly reactive and flammable metal, meaning that it must be stored in mineral oil, under inert gases, or in a vacuum. From consumer products to health supplements, lithium is used in various industries, making it one of the essential metals. Besides, not only metallic lithium but also numerous lithium compounds play a crucial role in the production industry. If you still doubt the significance of this alkali metal, here are ten reasons why lithium is so important:
#1. Lithium Is Used in Rechargeable and Non-Rechargeable Batteries
Metallic lithium is primarily used in rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries as an anode. Therefore, these batteries are commonly known as lithium-ion batteries. Lithium ions being key components of the electrochemistry of Li-ion batteries, offers several benefits. According to NightSearcher, eco-friendly lithium-ion batteries provide high energy density, require low maintenance, last longer, and offer more battery life, making them ideal for smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
#2. Lithium Is Used in Air Conditioning, Air Purification, and Industrial Drying Systems
Along with being the main source for the production of metallic lithium, lithium chloride is widely used in air conditioning. This is because lithium chloride is a practical desiccant due to its stability under ambient conditions. In addition, lithium chloride and lithium bromide are commonly used in industrial drying systems that dry products to the required moisture content. Besides, lithium hydroxide and lithium peroxide are used for air purification purposes in spacecraft and submarines. These compounds are responsible for the removal of carbon dioxide to purify the air.
#3. Lithium Oxide Reduces Melting Point and Viscosity
Lithium oxide acts as flux, a chemical purifying agent that is typically used in metallurgy. Oftentimes, lithium oxide is used as auxiliary flux to decrease the melting point of ceramics. By reducing the processing temperature, the melt rate is increased, making the production of ceramics and glasses more efficient. Besides, lowering the viscosity of the material leads to the production of goods with improved physical properties.
#4. Lithium Salts Reduce Corrosion and Erosion Rates
Lithium salts are known as corrosion and erosion inhibitors. Although these properties of lithium salts are still being tested, a study from 2016 shows that leachable lithium salts, lithium carbonate and lithium oxalate, are effective against corrosion. Along with reducing corrosion rates, lithium salts are responsible for the slow erosion of glass.
#5. Lithium Improves the Durability of Windows
As a matter of fact, lithium is widely used in the production of ceramics and glass. According to Ultra Lithium, lithium is responsible for making windows durable. Besides, using lithium in the production of windows contributes to temperature regulation, keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This explains the rationale behind coating windows with a thin layer of metallic chemicals. These types of sophisticated windows are also referred to as electrochromic windows.
#6. Lithium Disilicate Is Widely Used in Dentistry
Lithium disilicate is a glass-ceramic that is commonly used in dental restorations. Lithium disilicate is one of the most widespread materials for veneers, monolithic crowns, implant superstructures, bridges, inlays, and onlays. This material is valued for its strength and availability in multiple translucency levels. Therefore, lithium disilicate allows dentists to create almost perfect dental restorations.
#7. Lithium Has Alloying Capabilities
In order to enhance the mechanical and chemical properties of various alloys, lithium is added to them. Typically, lithium is alloyed with aluminum, copper, and magnesium alloys, making them stronger and lighter. Aluminum-lithium alloy is renowned for its exceptional aerospace and high-performance applications. It is also used for the production of aircraft, high-speed trains, and even bike frames. Besides, lithium-copper alloy is widely used as a deoxidizer and degasifier in the production of various alloys. On the other hand, magnesium-lithium alloys are characterized by light weight, strength, and ultra-low density, making them ideal in the fields of aerospace, military, and electronics.
#8. Lithium Stearate Is a General-Purpose Lubricating Grease
Along with functioning as a stabilizer in the cosmetic and plastic industries, lithium stearate is widely used as an all-purpose high-temperature lubricating grease. The main reason why lithium stearate greases are so popular is that they are thick, extremely resistant to water, and can withstand high temperatures. As lithium greases are non-corrosive, they can also be used for lubricating metals. Lithium stearate is commonly used for lubricating electric doors and automotive parts.
#9. Lithium Is Essential in Organic and Polymer Chemistry
Lithium is of huge importance in organic synthesis, in which organolithium compounds are responsible for the transfer of the organic group or the lithium atom from one compound to another. Due to the chemical properties of organolithium compounds, they act as powerful bases and nucleophiles in organic synthesis. In polymer chemistry, organolithium (specifically alkyl lithium) compounds are used as catalysts or initiators.
#10. Lithium Salts Are Useful in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
Lithium is widely known as a mood stabilizer; therefore, it is commonly used to treat various mood disorders. Usually, lithium salts help relieve the symptoms associated with hypomania or mania (manic depression). Studies show that lithium is also effective when treating or preventing bipolar disorder. Besides, lithium, along with carbamazepine, has been used in treating patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders.