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Supplier Data - Lithium (Li) (Goodfellow)

Discovered in 1817 by J.A. Arfvedson in Stockholm, Sweden, and isolated by W.T. Brande in 1821.

Lithium (Li) is a soft, silver metal, and is the first member of the alkali group of metals. It is the lightest of all metals and, whilst resembling sodium chemically, it is less active.

Abundance and Production

As is the case for other alkali group elements, Lithium is obtained by the electrolysis of the fused halides. The abundance of lithium in the earth's crust is 20 ppm.

Lithium reacts slowly in water and in air where it eventually forms a black coating of oxide. This means that Lithium tends to be stored under oil to prevent deterioration.


Lithium is used as an alloying agent with aluminium and magnesium, and in the manufacture of batteries. Compounds of lithium are used in various applications; for example, Lithium 12-hydroxy stearate is used in high performance greases as it provides good water resistance and good low temperature performance; Lithium hydride is a strong reducing agent and is used as a source of hydrogen, and lithium carbonate is used as a tranquiliser and in the treatment of some mental illnesses.

Lithium and its compounds also find applications in the manufacture of glass and ceramics.

Lithium is also used in the manufacturing of glass Image Credit: FreeProd33/shutterstock

Lithium is also used in the manufacturing of glass Image Credit: FreeProd33/shutterstock

Key Properties

The key properties of Lithium are tabulated below.

Table 1. Key properties

Atomic Properties
Atomic number 3
Atomic radius - Goldschmidt ( nm ) 0.157
Atomic weight ( amu ) 6.941
Crystal structure Body centred cubic
Electronic structure He 2s1
Photo-electric work function ( eV ) 2.4
Thermal neutron absorption cross-section ( Barns ) 63
Valences shown 1
Ionisation potential No. eV
1 5.39
2 75.6
3 122.4
Natural isotope distribution Mass No. %
6 7.5
7 92.5
Electrical Properties
Electrical resistivity @ 20 °C ( µ ) 9.29
Temperature coefficient @ 0-100 °C ( K-1 ) 0.00435
Thermal emf against Pt (cold 0 °C - hot 100 °C) ( mV ) +1.82
Mechanical Properties
Material condition Polycrystalline
Bulk modulus ( GPa ) 11.1
Hardness – Vickers <5
Poisson’s ratio 0.36
Tensile modulus ( GPa ) 4.91
Physical Properties
Boiling point (°C ) 1342
Density @ 20 °C ( ) 0.534
Melting point (°C ) 180.5
Thermal Properties
Coefficient of thermal expansion @ 0-100 °C ( x10-6 K-1 ) 56
Latent heat of evaporation ( J.g-1 ) 19600
Latent heat of fusion ( J.g-1 ) 422
Specific heat @ 25 °C ( ) 3560
Thermal conductivity @ 0-100 °C ( W.m-1.K-1 ) 84.8

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