Lithium – the new white gold.
“There’s gold in them thar hills.” So went one of the rallying cries of the miners pursuing the 1849 Californian Gold Rush. These “Forty-Niners,” as they were called, were chasing abundant and almost unimaginable wealth as they sought the latest “strike” in the hills of California. Sometimes the gold had to be dug out of seams which lay beneath the surface, but sometimes the precious yellow metal could be found simply lying right on the ground in front of them.
A mere 174 years later, gold is certainly still valuable, but there are other elements which are much more sought after these days. And one of these is the extremely useful, and therefore much in demand, element called Lithium. Lithium (from the Ancient Greek λιθος (líthos) meaning ‘stone’) is a chemical element with the symbol Li and the atomic number 3. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal which is most often found in salty water, and its popularity these days means that some people have referred to it as the “new white gold”.
But what is it that really makes Lithium so important and therefore so valuable?