Lithium is the least reactive of the alkali metals. If brought in contact with water, then it dissolves, while liberating hydrogen, but the reaction is not particularly violent. The liquid then becomes turbid, due to limited solubility of lithium hydroxide in water.

Metallic lithium is not a chemical, which one would expect in a home lab. It is quite expensive and it does not keep well.

Most remarkable property of lithium is its extremely low density. The metal has such a low density, that it cannot be stored under mineral oil, although that would be the best to keep it in good condition for a longer time. The picture shows that the metal is floating on the oil and part of the metal is pointing out of the oil, its height above the oil being limited by the glass of the vial.



The aqueous chemistry of lithium salts closely resembles that of the other alkali metal salts, but with a marked difference in solubility of lithium salts. Certain lithium salts are much more soluble than the corresponding sodium salt, but others are much less soluble.

At pottery and ceramics stores one usually can purchase fairly pure lithium carbonate. This compound is only sparingly soluble. On the addition of hydrochloric acid, however, it easily dissolves, forming a solution of lithium chloride, which dissolves very well.

For the home lab, lithium carbonate or any other lithium salt, is only moderately interesting. Lithium ions, Li+, do not have special interesting properties. There is no aqueous redox chemistry, the +1 oxidation state is the only achievable oxidation state. For pyrotechnical experiments, lithium salts may be somewhat interesting, because of the influence on the color of the flame. It tends to give a red color to flames. For the curious ones, it may be interesting to investigate which lithium compounds are soluble and which are not.




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