Does Lithium Conduct Electricity?

Lithium is widely used in batteries and various electronics. It’s an alkali metal in group one on the periodic table with distinctive characteristics.

As an electrician that needs to know this for a living, I will share a few useful insights on lithium’s conductivity in this guide. Owing to the vast industrial application of lithium, understanding its “chemistry” gives you an upper hand when it comes to its applications.

Quick Summary: Lithium conducts electrical current in solid and molten states. Lithium has metallic bonding, and its valence electrons are delocalized in the liquid and solid states, allowing electrical energy to flow. So, in a nutshell, lithium’s electrical conductivity is solely reliant on the availability of delocalized electrons.

I will capture more detail below.

Why Does Lithium Conduct Electricity in Molten and Solid States?

Presence of delocalized electrons.

Lithium has metallic bonding and its valence electrons are delocalized in the liquid and solid states, allowing electrical energy to flow. So, briefly, lithium’s electrical conductivity is solely reliant on the availability of delocalized electrons.

Does Lithium Oxide Conduct Electricity in Both Molten and Solid States?

Lithium oxide (Li2O) only conducts electricity when it is molten. It is an ionic compound, and the ions in solid Li2O are localized in place in an ionic lattice; the ions are not free/mobile and thus cannot conduct electricity. When molten, however, the ionic bonds are disengaged and the ions become free, allowing a seamless flow of electrical energy.

Where is Lithium on the Periodic Table?

Lithium is an alkali metal and is found in group one on the periodic table:

Its precise location is shown in the image below.

Lithium symbol in chemical table
Video | AtomicSchool

The Properties of Lithium, Li — Chemical and Physical

1. Atomic Number, Z

Lithium is a chemical substance with the atomic number (Z) 3, i.e. Z = 3. That translates to three protons and three electrons in its atomic structure.

2. Chemical Symbol

Lithium’s chemical symbol is Li.

3. Physical Appearance

It is a silvery-white alkali metal that is soft, it’s the lightest metal. Also, it’s the lightest solid element under normal conditions.

4. Reactivity and Storage

Lithium (like all alkali metals) is extremely reactive and flammable and hence stored in mineral oil.

5. Atomic Mass, A

Atomic mass = 6.941 u.

The mass of an atom (lithium in our case) is defined as its atomic mass. The atomic mass, also known as relative isotopic mass, refers to the mass of a single particle and is thus associated with a specific isotope of an element.

6. Boiling and Melting Point

  • Melting point, MP = 180.5°C
  • Boiling point, BP = 1342°C

It should be noted that these points are related to the standard atmospheric pressure.

7. Lithium Atomic Radius

Lithium atoms have an atomic radius of 128pm (covalent radius).

It should be noted that atoms lack a clearly defined outer boundary. The atomic radius of a chemical substance is the distance the electron cloud reaches from the nucleus.

Fun Facts about Lithium, Li

  • Lithium is used in medicine, as a heat transfer agent, to make alloys, and in batteries, among other things. 
  • Even though lithium substances are known to improve mood, scientists are still unsure of the exact mechanism by which they work on the nervous system. What is known is that lithium reduces the action of the dopamine receptor. Also, it can cross the placenta to affect the unborn child.
  • The first man-made nuclear fusion reaction was the conversion of lithium to tritium.
  • Lithium comes from the Greek word lithos, which means “stone.” Lithium is found in most igneous rocks, but it is not found free.
  • Electrolysis of (fused) lithium chloride (LiCl) produces lithium metal.

Working Principle(s) of Lithium-ion Battery

anode and cathode load
Video | Owl WiS

A rechargeable lithium-ion battery comprises one or more power-generating compartments known as cells. Each cell/compartment contains three main parts:

The Positive electrode (graphite) — is connected to the battery’s positive.

The Negative electrode — is connected to the negative.

Electrolyte — sandwiched between the two electrodes.

The movement of ions (via the electrolyte) and electrons (via the external circuit, in an opposite direction) are all interconnected processes; when one stops, the other follows. 

If ions can’t flow through the electrolyte when the battery has completely discharged, electrons cannot either.

Similarly, if you turn off whatever the battery is powering, the movement of electrons and ions ceases. The battery effectively stops discharging rapidly — but it keeps on discharging, at a very slow rate, even with an appliance disconnected.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

Video References


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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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