Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate is a chemical compound
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 of lithium
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol Li, and it has the atomic number 3. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly...

, carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

, and oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 Li2CO3. This colorless salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for its use in psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

. It is found in nature as the rare mineral zabuyelite
Zabuyelite is the natural mineral form of lithium carbonate, with a formula Li2CO3. It was discovered in 1987 at Lake Zabuye, Tibet, after which it is named. It forms colorless vitreous monoclinic crystals....



Like almost all other lithium compounds, Li2CO3 is polymeric. It is an ionic compound. Lithium carbonate is soluble in water, and thus can be used either as a source of the lithium ion or the carbonate ion, but it is not that soluble, which is rare, given that lithium compounds typically have exceptional aqueous solubility. The isolation of lithium from aqueous extracts of its ores capitalizes on this poor solubility. Its apparent solubility increases tenfold under a mild pressure of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

; this effect is due to the formation of the metastable
Metastability describes the extended duration of certain equilibria acquired by complex systems when leaving their most stable state after an external action....

In inorganic chemistry, bicarbonate is an intermediate form in the deprotonation of carbonic acid...

Li2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 LiHCO3

Lithium carbonate, and other carbonates of Group 1
Alkali metal
The alkali metals are a series of chemical elements in the periodic table. In the modern IUPAC nomenclature, the alkali metals comprise the group 1 elements, along with hydrogen. The alkali metals are lithium , sodium , potassium , rubidium , caesium , and francium...

, do not decompose readily, unlike other carbonates. Li2CO3 decomposes at temperatures >1300 C.


Lithium carbonate is an important industrial chemical. It forms low-melting flux
Flux (metallurgy)
In metallurgy, a flux , is a chemical cleaning agent, flowing agent, or purifying agent. Fluxes may have more than one function at a time...

es with silica and other materials. Glasses derived from lithium carbonate are useful in ovenware. Lithium carbonate is a common ingredient in both low-fire and high-fire ceramic glaze. Its alkaline properties are conducive to changing the state of metal oxide colorants in glaze particularly red iron oxide (Fe2O3). Cement sets more rapidly when prepared with lithium carbonate, and is useful for tile adhesives. When added to aluminium trifluoride, it forms LiF which gives a superior electrolyte
In chemistry, an electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible....

 for the processing of aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

. Lithium carbonate is used as an active material of carbon dioxide sensors. It is also used in the manufacture of most lithium-ion battery cathodes, which are made of lithium cobalt oxide
Lithium cobalt oxide
Lithium cobalt oxide is a chemical compound commonly used in the positive electrodes of lithium-ion batteries. The structure of LiCoO2 is known theoretically and has been confirmed with techniques like x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, neutron powder diffraction, and EXAFS: it consists of...


Medical uses

In 1843, lithium carbonate was used as a new solvent for stones in the bladder. In 1859, some doctors recommended a therapy with lithium salts for a number of ailments including gout, urinary calculi, rheumatism, mania, depression and headache. In 1949, Cade
John Cade
For the former Maryland State Senator, see John A. CadeFor the Louisiana Republican state chairman, see John H. Cade, Jr.Dr John Frederick Joseph Cade AO was an Australian psychiatrist credited with discovering the effects of lithium carbonate as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of bipolar...

 discovered the anti-manic effects of lithium ions. This knowledge led lithium, specifically lithium carbonate to be used to treat mania associated with bipolar disorder.

Lithium carbonate is used to treat mania
Mania, the presence of which is a criterion for certain psychiatric diagnoses, is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression...

, the elevated phase of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or...

. Lithium ions interfere with ion transport processes (see “sodium pump”) that relay and amplify messages carried to the cells of the brain. In mania there is an observed irregular increase in protein kinase C (PKC) activity within the brain. A recent study has shown that lithium carbonate and sodium valproate, another drug traditionally used to treat the disorder, act in the brain by inhibiting PKC’s activity and help to create other compounds that also inhibit the PKC. Additionally, daily doses of lithium have been found to delay progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a form of motor neuron disease caused by the degeneration of upper and lower neurons, located in the ventral horn of the spinal cord and the cortical neurons that provide their efferent input...

 (ALS) in an Italian study of 44 people with the disorder. No other treatment to date has shown such a dramatic effect on ALS. Despite these findings, a great deal remains unknown regarding lithium's mood controlling properties.

Recently, topical lithium has been utilized in dermatological disorders, such as herpes viral infections. It is hoped that lithium will be used in the future as an anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-tumor agent. Lithium salts when used at low doses do not cause addiction, but do have a number of risks and side effects associated with their use, especially at higher doses. Lithium intoxication affects the central nervous system and renal system and is potentially lethal.


Lithium carbonate is found in fireworks
Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. The most common use of a firework is as part of a fireworks display. A fireworks event is a display of the effects produced by firework devices...

, because lithium imparts a deep red to flames.

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