The element, lithium, seems to have some unique properties that are common to it alone. Lithium is an alkali earth metal which was discovered by Johan August Arfvedson (1792-1841). It has the symbol, Li and an atomic number of 3 and it is a soft silvery-white alkali metal which is highly reactive and flammable and must be stored properly in a vacuum. This element does not occur freely in nature but can be found in compounds such as pegmatitic minerals and it is isolated from the mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.
There are so many characteristics/properties of lithium which makes it unique. The following are the properties of lithium.
- Lithium has a soft silvery-white color.
- It is an alkali metal belonging to the group 1 of the periodic table.
- It is a highly reactive and flammable metal.
- It reacts violently when mixed with water.
- It cannot be kept under oil because it is less dense than the oil.
- It has a boiling point of 1,342°C.
- It has a melting point of 180.5°C.
- It has an oxidation state of +1.
- It has a high thermal conductivity, high specific heat, low viscosity and low density.
Lithium and its compounds are used in a number of processes which includes industrial applications, heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, flux additives for iron, steel and aluminium production, lithium metal batteries, and lithium-ion batteries.
How is lithium different from other group 1 elements?
Examples of these elements are sodium, potassium, rubidium, francium etc. These elements have strong tendencies to donate their valence electrons in the last shell to form strong ionic bonds. Although elements in group 1 of the periodic table seem to share most properties e.g they are very reactive when mixed in water they all have some unique properties differentiating them from the rest of their kind.
When compared with other group 1 elements in the periodic table, the element lithium is said to have a harder texture. The melting and boiling point of lithium is greater than that of the other alkali metals and it is the least reactive metal of the alkali metals. It is a strong reducing agent compared to other alkali metals in group 1.
What makes lithium a unique element?
Lithium is a unique element because it has some properties that make it stand out.
It is a light and soft metal that can be cut with a kitchen knife and it has a low density that it floats on water. It can also be solid at various temperatures.
Amongst all other alkali metals, lithium happens to be the only alkali metal that does not form the anion, Li−, in solution or in the solid state. Lithium is a chemically active metal that readily loses one of its three electrons to form compounds containing the Li+ cation.
Differences between Lithium and Other Alkali Metals
The following are some of the differences between lithium and other alkali metals.
- Lithium is a harder metal than other alkali metals.
- It is the least reactive of all other alkali metals.
- It is the only alkali metal in group 1 of the periodic table that forms its monoxide.
- It is unable to form solid hydrogen carbonates unlike other alkali metals.
- It has a high melting and boiling point higher than other alkali metals.
- It does not react with ethyne to form ethynide unlike other alkali metals that react with ethyne to form ethynide.
- Unlike other alkali metals it reacts slowly with bromine.
- It is a strong reducing agent when compared with other alkali metals.
Why is lithium harder than other alkali metals?
Lithium has inconsistent properties due to its size and high polarizing power; it is much harder than the other alkali metals because it contains strong metallic bonds.
Why is lithium less reactive than other alkali metals?
Lithium is less reactive than other alkali metals because it is the one with the least electrons. This means that the electrons in lithium are closer to its nucleus and therefore more attracted to it.
Differences between lithium, sodium and potassium
|It reacts with water to form Lithium hydroxide.||It reacts with water to form Sodium hydroxide.||It reacts with water to form Potassium hydroxide.|
Interesting facts about lithium
- It is the lightest alkali metal with a density about half of that of water.
- It has the lowest density of any alkali metal.
- It is soft and shiny and it reacts violently with water forming a strong corrosive base.
- It burns with a bright red color.
- It is used in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries.
- It is corrosive in its pure form.
- It ignites when in contact with water and can easily burn flesh.
- It is used in the production of a wide range of materials such batteries, ceramics and glass, greases, pharmaceutical compounds, air conditioners and aluminum production.
- Just like sodium, it is a soft metal that can be cut with a knife.
- It can float on water.
- It was one of the three elements produced in large quantities by the Big Bang.