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The silvery-white metal lithium is the lightest solid element and has the lowest melting point of any alkali metal. It reacts rapidly with air and corrodes to a dull gray or black tarnish. Elemental lithium does not occur in nature; it is produced in large quantities from pegmatitic minerals.

In the form of compounds, lithium has many industrial uses. The metal’s ion is used in lithium-ion batteries, which power such electronic devices as cell phones, laptops and tablets. Li-ion batteries have an electrolyte that helps transport the lithium-ions between the anode and cathode, allowing electrons to flow through your electronic device and giving it its power.

Lithium ions form salts that are readily soluble in water, acetone and ethanol. They also have unique chemical properties that make them useful in battery production, such as a low internal cell resistance that allows for high current discharging and slow charging. Lithium is also soluble in short chain aliphatic amines, such as etilamine, and is insoluble in hydrocarbons.

The bulk of mined lithium comes from the mineral spodumene, which is crushed and roasted at 2012degF (1100degC) to produce monohydrate lithium carbonate. This is then pulverized and mixed with sulfuric acid, forming the white lithium hydroxide powder that is most commonly used in industry. It is also made into lithium soaps that are useful as lubricating grease thickeners, and used to extend the life of alkaline storage batteries.