Lithium carbonate

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Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate
CAS number 554-13-2 YesY
PubChem 11125
ChemSpider 10654 YesY
KEGG D00801 YesY
RTECS number OJ5800000
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Molecular formula CLi2O3
Molar mass 73.89 g mol−1
Appearance Odorless white powder
Density 2.11 g/cm3
Melting point 723 °C (1,333 °F; 996 K)
Boiling point 1,310 °C (2,390 °F; 1,580 K)
decomposes from ~1300 °C
Solubility in water 1.54 g/100 mL (0 °C)
1.43 g/100 mL (10 °C)
1.29 g/100 mL (25 °C)
1.08 g/100 mL (40 °C)
0.69 g/100 mL (100 °C)[1]
Solubility Insoluble in acetone, ammonia, alcohol[2]
Refractive index (nD) 1.428[3]
Viscosity 4.64 cP (777 °C)
3.36 cP (817 °C)[2]
heat capacity
97.4 J/mol·K[2]
Std molar
90.37 J/mol·K[2]
Std enthalpy of
-1215.6 kJ/mol[2]
Gibbs free energy ΔG -1132.4 kJ/mol[2]
GHS pictograms The exclamation-mark pictogram in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)[4]
GHS signal word Warning
GHS hazard statements H302, H319[4]
GHS precautionary statements P305+351+338[4]
EU Index Not listed
EU classification Harmful Xn Irritant Xi
R-phrases R22, R36
S-phrases S26, S36/37
Main hazards Irritant
Flash point Non-flammable
LD50 525 mg/kg (oral, rat)[5]
Related compounds
Other cations Sodium carbonate
Potassium carbonate
Rubidium carbonate
Caesium carbonate
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
 N (verify) (what is: YesY/N?)
Infobox references

Lithium carbonate is an inorganic compound, the lithium salt of carbonate with the formula Li2CO3. This white salt is widely used in the processing of metal oxides and has received attention for the treatment of bipolar disorder. It exists as the rare mineral zabuyelite.[6]

It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.[7]


Lithium carbonate is an important industrial chemical. It forms low-melting fluxes 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 for the processing of aluminium.[8] Lithium carbonate is an active material of carbon dioxide sensors.[9] It is also used in the manufacture of most lithium-ion battery cathodes, which are made of lithium cobalt oxide.

Medical uses[edit]

Main article: Lithium pharmacology

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

Lithium carbonate is used to treat mania, the elevated phase of bipolar disorder. Lithium ions interfere with ion transport processes (see “sodium pump”) that relay and amplify messages carried to the cells of the brain.[10] Mania is associated with irregular increases in protein kinase C (PKC) activity within the brain. 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 produce other compounds that also inhibit the PKC.[11] Despite these findings, a great deal remains unknown regarding lithium's mood controlling properties.[citation needed]

Some studies have suggested therapeutic benefit of lithium carbonate in certain neuromuscular conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)[12] and spinal muscular atrophy.[13][14] A 2010 controlled trial of lithium carbonate in ALS did not confirm earlier suggestions, finding the compound ineffective and possibly toxic in ALS patients.[15] Other research suggests that low dose Lithium supplementation may protect the brain and encourage the growth of grey matter in the cerebral cortex and prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease.[16] The two forms of lithium used for Alzheimer's Disease, however, are lithium aspartate and lithium orotate.

Side effects[edit]

Use of lithium salts have a number of risks and side effects, especially at higher doses. Lithium intoxication affects the central nervous and renal systems and is potentially lethal.[17]


Like related lithium salts, Li2CO3 is an ionic compound. Its solubility in water is low relative to other lithium salts. The isolation of lithium from aqueous extracts of lithium ores capitalizes on this poor solubility. Its apparent solubility increases tenfold under a mild pressure of carbon dioxide; this effect is due to the formation of the metastable bicarbonate:[8]

Li2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 LiHCO3

The extraction of lithium carbonate at high pressures of CO2 and its precipitation upon depressuring is the basis of the Quebec process. Approximately 30,000 tons were produced in 1989. Lithium carbonate, and other carbonates of Group 1, do not decompose readily, unlike other carbonates. Li2CO3 decomposes at temperatures ~1300 °C.

Extraction and production[edit]

Lithium is extracted from primarily two sources: pegmatite crystals and lithium salt from brine pools. Lithium oxide is typically mixed with a specific ratio of carbonate to produce the industry standard of lithium carbonate.[citation needed] Lithium carbonate and oxygen gas can be made by combining lithium peroxide with carbon dioxide.


  1. ^ Seidell, Atherton; Linke, William F. (1952). Solubilities of Inorganic and Organic Compounds. Van Nostrand. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f
  3. ^ Pradyot Patnaik. Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals. McGraw-Hill, 2002, ISBN 0-07-049439-8
  4. ^ a b c Sigma-Aldrich Co., Lithium carbonate. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  5. ^
  6. ^ David Barthelmy. "Zabuyelite Mineral Data". Mineralogy Database. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  7. ^ "WHO Model List of Essential Medicines" (PDF). World Health Organization. October 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Ulrich Wietelmann, Richard J. Bauer "Lithium and Lithium Compounds" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2005, Wiley-VCH: Weinheim.
  9. ^ Technical Information for Carbon Dioxide Sensors
  10. ^ Medical use
  11. ^ Yildiz, A; Guleryuz, S; Ankerst, DP; Ongür, D; Renshaw, PF (2008). "Protein kinase C inhibition in the treatment of mania: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of tamoxifen". Archives of General Psychiatry 65 (3): 255–63. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2007.43. PMID 18316672. 
  12. ^ MDA Research|Lithium Slows ALS Progression In Study[dead link]
  13. ^ Il'Ina, N. A.; Antipova, R. I.; Khokhlov, A. P. (1980). "Use of lithium carbonate to treat Kugelberg–Welander spinal amyotrophy". Zhurnal nevropatologii i psikhiatrii imeni S.S. Korsakova (Moscow, Soviet Union) 80 (11): 1657–1660. PMID 7456914.  edit
  14. ^ Fulceri, F.; Guagnozzi, M., Matarangasi, A.; Pasquali, L.; Siciliano, G.; Paparelli, A. (2012). "Lithium protects motor neurons at prolonged time intervals in a single knock out double transgenic mouse model of spinal muscle atrophy". Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology 117 (2): 78. 
  15. ^ "Lithium Not Helpful in MDA-Supported Trial". MDA/ALS News Magazine. Muscular Dystrophy Association. 1 May 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Simard, M; Gumbiner, B; Lee, A; Lewis, H; Norman, D (1989). "Lithium carbonate intoxication. A case report and review of the literature". Archives of Internal Medicine 149 (1): 36–46. doi:10.1001/archinte.149.1.36. PMID 2492186. 

External links[edit]