Lithium

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Lithium (play /ˈlɪθiəm/, LI-thee-əm) is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol Li, and it has the atomic number 3. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable. For this reason, it is typically stored in mineral oil. When cut open, lithium exhibits a metallic luster, but contact with moist air corrodes the surface quickly to a dull silvery gray, then black, tarnish. Because of its high reactivity, lithium never occurs free in nature, and instead, only appears in compounds, usually ionic ones. Lithium occurs in a number of pegmatitic minerals, but is also commonly obtained from brines and clays. On a commercial scale, lithium is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.

The nuclei of lithium are not far from being unstable, since the two stable lithium isotopes found in nature have among the lowest binding energies per nucleon of all stable nuclides. As a result, they can be used in fission reactions as well as fusion reactions of nuclear devices. Due to its near instability, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements even though the nuclei are very light in atomic weight.[1] For related reasons, lithium has important links to nuclear physics. The transmutation of lithium atoms to tritium was the first man-made form of a nuclear fusion reaction, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion fuel in staged thermonuclear weapons.

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