Lithium carbonate

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723 °C

1310 °C decomp.

Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound of lithium, carbon, and oxygen with the formula Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite.[2]

Contents

Properties

Like almost all other lithium compounds, Li2CO3 is polymeric. It is relatively covalent and this is shown by its small solubility. The isolation of lithium from aqueous extracts of its ores capitalizes on this low solubility. Its apparent solubility increases tenfold under a mild pressure of carbon dioxide; this effect is due to the formation of the metastable bicarbonate:

Applications

Lithium carbonate is an important industrial chemical. It forms low-melting fluxes with silica and other materials. Glasses derived from lithium carbonate are useful in ovenware. Lithium carbonate is a common ingredient in both low-fire and high-fire ceramic glaze. Its alkaline properties are conducive to changing the state of metal oxide colorants in glaze particularly red iron oxide (FeO3). Cement sets more rapidly when prepared with lithium carbonate, and is useful for tile adhesives. When added to aluminium trifluoride, it forms LiF which gives a superior electrolyte for the processing of aluminium.[3] Lithium carbonate is used as an active material of carbon dioxide sensors.[4] It is also used in the manufacture of most lithium-ion battery cathodes, which are made of lithium cobalt oxide.

Medical uses

Lithium carbonate is used to treat mania, the up phase of bipolar disorder. Lithium ions interfere with chemical reactions (sodium pump) that relay and amplify messages carried to the cells of the brain.[5] In mania there is an observed irregular increase in protein kinase C (PKC) activity within the brain. A recent study has shown that lithium carbonate and sodium valproate, another drug traditionally used to treat the disorder, act in the brain by inhibiting PKC’s activity and help to create other compounds that also inhibit the PKC. Lithium carbonate is of little use for someone suffering from unipolar depression.[6]

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