3Li Lithium

Year Discovered

1817

Discovered By

Johan Arfvedson of Sweden

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.

Description

Named from the Greek word meaning “stone”, lithium is a very soft, silvery-white metal. Like all of the alkali metals, it is quite reactive in the presence of water and oxygen. Lithium is the least reactive of the alkali metals, but it will smoke and sizzle if water is poured upon it. Lithium is the lightest metal, so light that a bar of it will float on water. Lithium is combined with aluminum and magnesium to make light-weight alloys. It is used as a reducing agent in making many organic compounds. It has a low melting point and the highest heat capacity of any element. Consequently, it is used as a coolant in some nuclear reactors. Lithium also is used in lubricating grease, industrial dryers and air-conditioners, batteries, glass, medicines and nuclear bombs.

Biological Benefits

Lithium has no known biological use. It does affect the metabolism and lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) can control manic-depressive disorders and has also been used to treat gout.

Role in Life Processes

Beneficial to full health or thought to be.

Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.00001%

Sources

Lithium comes from two very different types of deposits. It is mined from pegmatite and recovered from the mineral spodumene, and to lesser extent, amblygonite, lepidolite and petalite, mainly from deposits in the USA, Canada and China. Lake brines and playa evaporites also contain lithium; USA and Chile are important sources.