The Elements : Lithium


Name Symbol Atomic Number Electronic Structure Melting Point (°C) Boiling Point (°C)
 Lithium  Li 3 2 - 1 180.54 1342

Lithium is element No 3, with three protons in its nucleus and three outer elections. The three electrons are arranged in two "shells". The inner shell contains two electrons and this is a stable arrangement as we saw with Helium. The third election is in a second shell. It's at a bit of a loose end and this third outer election is responsible for Lithium's properties.

Lithium is a silvery white metal. Most of the elements are metals. Metals have a shiny crystaline surface and conduct heat and electricity well. It is Lithium's loose outer election that is responsible for its conductivity and shiny surface.

Lithium is the lightest of all metals. It is so light that it would float on water - in fact, it reacts with and dissolve in water. It tarnishes slowly in air because it reacts with Oxygen as well as Nitrogen. The loose outer election wants to pair up so Lithium is reactive and interacts with many other atoms.

Lithium is an Alkali Metal because it forms alkaline compounds (which can neutralise acids). It is never found free in nature but its compounds are scattered liberally in the Earth's crust.

Lithium has a low melting point for a metal (180°C). It is used in alloys and in organic synthesis.

An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals with different physical properties to the source constituents.

The name is from the Greek, Lithos which means stone.

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