3Li Lithium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Johan Arfvedson of Sweden

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


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 weapons.

Biological Benefits

Lithium has no known function in natural biological systems. It affects metabolism and has a medicinal use in lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) to control manic-depressive disorders and has 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%


Lithium comes from very different types of deposits. It is mined from pegmatite deposits and recovered from the mineral spodumene, and to lesser extent, amblygonite, lepidolite and petalite. Lake brines and playa evaporites also contain lithium.  From 2016 to 2018, Australia’s production of lithium increased by more than 300%. Due to increasing demand for use of lithium in batteries, 80% of lithium mined is now used in batteries.  Australia is the world’s largest producer of lithium, followed by Chile.  Lithium resources are detailed in the USGS Mineral Commodities Summaries.