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Lithium was discovered from a mineral, while other common alkali metals were discovered from plant material. This is thought to explain the origin of the element’s name; from ‘lithos’ (Greek for ‘stone’).


A soft, silvery metal. It has the lowest density of all metals. It reacts vigorously with water.

The most important use of lithium is in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles. Lithium is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries for things like heart pacemakers, toys and clocks.

Lithium metal is made into alloys with aluminium and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter. A magnesium-lithium alloy is used for armour plating. Aluminium-lithium alloys are used in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.

According to the Jefferson National Linear Accelerator Laboratory, the properties of lithium are:
  • Atomic number (number of protons in the nucleus): 3
  • Atomic symbol (on the Periodic Table of Elements): Li
  • Atomic weight (average mass of the atom): 6.941
  • Density: 0.534 grams per cubic centimeter
  • Phase at room temperature: Solid
  • Melting point: 180.5 degrees Celsius
  • Boiling point: 1342 degrees Celsius
  • Number of isotopes (atoms of the same element with a different number of neutrons): 10; 2 stable
  • Most common isotopes: Li-7 (92.41 % natural abundance), Li-6 (7.59 % natural abundance
Lithium makes up a mere 0.0007 % of the Earth's crust, according to the Jefferson Lab, and it's only found locked up in minerals and salts.

Demand for lithium will only grow. A report by Wood Mackenzie, released in 2019, noted that more than $350 million was invested in advanced lithium-ion technologies during the 1st half of the year.