Lithium is a highly reactive and flammable element, which is the first alkali metal in the periodic table which consists of elements such as sodium. This beautiful mineral is found all over the world but it does not exist in its pure state. It can however be extracted in small quantities from rock, clay and brine.
The metal whose name was derived from a greek word means stone and was discovered in 1817 by the Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson. Its lightweight and outstanding properties make it a favourite amongst various industries especially the electrochemical energy storage industries.
Uses of Lithium
Lithium and its compounds have many industrial, technological and medical applications, including:
- Industrial applications – heat-resistant glass/ceramics, aircraft construction
- Technological applications – lithium batteries (found in laptops, cell phones, and most recently, in electric vehicles)
- Medical applications – mood stabilizers (treatment for bipolar disorder)
Lithium is needed to produce virtually all traction batteries currently used in EVs as well as consumer electronics. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are widely used in many other applications as well, from energy storage to air mobility. As battery content varies based on its active materials mix, and with new battery technologies entering the market, there are many uncertainties around how the battery market will affect future lithium demand. For example, a lithium metal anode, which boosts energy density in batteries, has nearly double the lithium requirements per kilowatt-hour compared with the current widely used mixes incorporating a graphite anode.
In light of this, it is quite evident that the current lithium “craze” is not temporary but rather it is now an important part of our lives due to its many uses. Expect to hear more and more about lithium in years and potentially even decades to come.