Friday, April 2, 2010
From the Wikipedia entry on Lithium:
Carriage and shipment of some kinds of lithium batteries may be prohibited aboard certain types of transportation (particularly aircraft) because of the ability of most types of lithium batteries to fully discharge very rapidly when short-circuited, leading to overheating and possible explosion in a process called thermal runaway. Most consumer lithium batteries have thermal overload protection built-in to prevent this type of incident, or their design inherently limits short-circuit currents. Internal shorts have been known to develop due to manufacturing defects or damage to batteries that can lead to spontaneous thermal runaway.
Yikes! Exploding batteries!
This is an element most of us are vaguely aware of. That will change, thanks mostly to the Lithium-Ion batteries used in electric cars and gas/electric hybrids in what is expected to be an explosion of such cars in the 4 years ahead.
Also from that article:
According to one cosmogenic theory, lithium was one of the few elements synthesized in the Big Bang, albeit in relatively small quantities. Since its current estimated abundance in the universe is vastly less than that predicted by physical theories, the processes by which new lithium is created and destroyed, and the true value of its abundance, continue to be active matters of study in astronomy. The nuclei of lithium are relatively fragile: the two stable lithium isotopes found in nature have lower binding energies per nucleon than any other stable compound nuclides, save deuterium, and helium-3 (3He). Though very light in atomic weight, lithium is less common in the solar system than 25 of the first 32 chemical elements.
Trace amounts of lithium are present in the oceans and in some organisms, though the element serves no apparent vital biological function in humans. The lithium ion Li+ administered as any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood stabilizing drug due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body. Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft, and lithium batteries. Lithium also 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.