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Lithium - Overview


  • Lithium (chemical symbol Li)
  • 3rd element in periodic table
  • A small soft silver-grey metal
  • Atomic weight of 6.9 g/mole
  • Smallest of the metal atoms in the periodic table
  • Member of the Alkali group of metals
  • A strong alloy when combined with metals such as magnesium
  • Used in batteries, glass, ceramics, lubricants, cameras, mobile phones, laptops, computers, PDA's
  • Lithium-ion batteries used to power electric bicycles (e-bikes), vehicles and mass energy storage systems
  • Lithium battery growth 15-20% pa for the past ten years
  • Batteries currently estimated at ~26% of total global lithium demand

Lithium Uses


The lithium-ion battery sector is one of the largest consumers of lithium, currently estimated to be at approximately 26% of total global lithium demand. Originally used in computing and mobile communication devices, lithium-ion batteries are being increasingly used to power electric bicycles (e-bikes), vehicles and mass energy storage devices. Lithium-ion batteries have superior energy density, are more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional acid batteries.


Glass and ceramics accounted for 29% of lithium consumption in 2011. Lithium oxide's very low co-efficient of thermal expansion makes it ideal for heat-proof ovenware and ceramic cook tops to withstand the thermal shock of rapid temperature changes.


The third largest application for lithium is in the production of multi-purpose lubricating greases. Lubricating grease consists of mineral oil thickened with lithium. Greases accounted for 14% of total consumption in 2011.


Lithium is also used in pharmaceuticals, catalysts and other lithium compounds, air conditioning, dehumidification systems, welding electrodes, nucleonics, luminescent paints, varnishes and dyes, rubber and aluminium production.

Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries (sometimes abbreviated Li-ion or Li batteries) are a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode (anode) to the positive electrode (cathode) during discharge, and from the cathode to the anode when charged. Lithium-ion batteries are common in portable consumer electronics because of their high energy-to-weight ratios, lack of memory effect, and slow loss of charge when not in use.

In addition to consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries are increasingly used in defence, automotive and aerospace applications due to their high energy density. They are generally much lighter than other types of rechargeable batteries of the same size. The electrodes of a lithium-ion battery are made of lightweight lithium and carbon. Galaxy expects the next major are of use for lithium rechargeable batteries to be electric bicycles and scooters, automotive starter batteries, mass energy storage batteries and the electric vehicle industry.

Lithium Demand

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, demand for lithium minerals and chemicals has grown steadily at 10% to 15% per annum. The primary growth in demand was in lithium batteries, glass and ceramic segments. Within the lithium battery sector, growth areas have been in batteries for laptops, mobile phones, ipads and ebook readers.

Demand for lithium in the electric vehicle segment is forecast to grow exponentially from 2014 onwards as global car manufacturers launch new models to secure electric vehicle market share.

The electric bike segment is also growing, especially in China.