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Lithium - why is it so rare

Discussion in 'Chemistry' started by Yellow Fang, 19 Apr 2012.

  1. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

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    Since lithium is such a useful element for making batteries, and possibly, in future, nuclear fusion. It seems a shame that it's somewhat rare. Why is that? iirc lithium is the 3rd lightest element in the periodic table. Hydrogen, the lightest element, is the most abundant element in the universe, followed by helium. Helium, the second lightest, is not very abundant on earth because it is non-reactive and such a light gas that it can easily escape the atmosphere. However, you'd have thought lithium would be more common than it is. It's reactive so forms solids and can't escape. Aluminium is close by in the periodic table and there is plenty of that. Sodium is in the same chemical group (iirc) and there is also plenty of that.
     
  2. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    Well from a quick glance at wiki it seems like the problem is the stuff don't stick together in nature much. There is plenty about in trace amounts. The problem is extracting it. 320 billion tons in the ocean. But nice and evenly distributed over the whole body of water.
    Living things have it. I guess the trick is how to extract or grow it in large volumes.

    Interesting material
     
  3. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
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    Wikipedia also says there's not as much as would be expected because the atomic nucleii are on the verge of instability. The main isotopes are not radioactive, but lithium is destroyed at lower temperatures than most elements, the sorts of temperatures you get in stars. Wikipedia also says it is as common as nickel or lead (20 mg per kg or 0.002% of the earth's crust). I did not think either lead or nickel was particularly rare, but as you say, lithium deposits are more evenly distributed.
     
  4. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
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    Wikipedia also says boron and beryllium are also rare due to being destroyed at relatively low temperatures. I have often thought that beryllium would be a great metal to make a bicycle frame from, but apparently it's toxic (although only to 1 in 10 people).
     
  5. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    I guess the trick is to find more uses for the things in abundant supply. Or take mining off planet and start harvesting them meteorites, moons and planets around us.