Lithium (Li) - Properties, Applications

Topics Covered

Chemical Properties
Physical Properties
Mechanical Properties
Thermal Properties


Lithium is a chemical element with Li as its symbol. It belongs to group 1 and period 2 of the periodic table and has an atomic number of 3. It is a part of the alkali metal group of chemical elements.

Lithium was initially found in the mineral petalite. It has also been found in the minerals spodumene and lepidolite.

Lithium has the highest specific heat of any solid element, and is the lightest known metal. It can be readily alloyed with copper, manganese, aluminum, and cadmium to make strong alloys. Lithium is silvery-white in color.

Lithium is soluble in short chain aliphatic amines but is insoluble in hydrocarbons.

Chemical Properties

The chemical properties of lithium are provided in the table below.

Chemical Data
CAS number 7439-93-2
Thermal neutron cross section 70 barns/atom
Electrode potential -3.02 V
Ionic radius 0.680 Å
Electronegativity 0.98
X-ray absorption edge 226.62 Å
Electrochemical equivalent 0.262 g/A/h

Physical Properties

The following table discusses the physical properties of lithium.

Properties Metric Imperial
Density 0.530 g/cm3 0.0191 lb/in3
Melting point 181°C 358°F
Boiling point 1342 °C 2448°F

Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of lithium are tabulated below.

Properties Metric Imperial
Tensile strength ≤ 15 MPa ≤ 2180 psi
Hardness, Vickers ≤ 5 ≤ 5

Thermal Properties

The thermal properties of lithium are tabulated below.

Properties Metric Imperial
Thermal expansion co-efficient (@20-100°C/68-212°F) 56 µm/m°C 31.1 µin/in°F
Thermal conductivity 71.2 W/mK 494 BTU in/hr.ft².°F


Lithium is widely used in heat transfer applications.

The following are the other application areas of lithium:

  • To make special glasses and ceramics
  • In electrical and electronic components
  • To make lubricating greases
  • As a flux for welding or soldering.

Lithium can be formed into many useful compounds. Some are listed below with their specific application areas:

  • Lithium fluoride - in specialist optics for IR, UV and vacuum UV applications
  • Lithium niobate - in non-linear optics applications
  • Lithium chloride and lithium bromide - used as desiccants for gas streams.

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