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Abundance of Lithium in Stars

  • 01 Dec 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, Scientists have found a clue to the mystery behind the high abundance of Lithium in some evolved stars.

  • The mystery is the reason behind the high abundance of Lithium in stars, which according to predicted models must get destroyed in the hot plasma of the star.
  • Lithium is a trace element on Earth, and a key component of rechargeable batteries.

Key Points

  • Sample for Research: The research involved the investigation of lithium among red giants showed that just about 1% of sun-like red giants had a lithium-enriched surface.
  • Research Methodology: The research surveyed (called GALAH - named after a common Australian bird) a collection of about 500,000 stars with well-determined physical and chemical properties, including lithium abundances.
  • Findings of Research: Regarding the reason for Lithium production, scientists have for the first time confirmed that all the lithium-rich stars are burning helium in their core.
    • They speculated that lithium production is linked to the violent helium-core flash.
    • It is proposed to be a simple and short sequence of nuclear reactions involving a collision between the two stable helium isotopes which led to a stable lithium isotope.
    • The survey revealed the rare presence of lithium-rich giants in all the Sun-like low-mass stars.

About Lithium

  • Properties of Lithium:
    • It is a chemical element with the symbol Li.
    • It is a soft, silvery-white metal.
    • Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.
    • It is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in mineral oil.
    • Lithium has become the new 'white gold' as the demand for high performing rechargeable batteries is rising.
    • Rising global lithium demand and surging prices have drawn increased interest in the so-called ‘lithium triangle’ that spans parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

  • Uses:
    • Lithium metal is used to make useful alloys.
      • For example, with lead to make ‘white metal’ bearings for motor engines, with aluminium to make aircraft parts, and with magnesium to make armour plates.
    • In Thermonuclear reactions.
    • To make electrochemical cells. Lithium is an important component in Electric Vehicles, Laptops etc.
  • Countries with Largest Reserves:
    • Chile> Australia> Argentina
  • Lithium in India:
    • Researchers at the Atomic Minerals Directorate (under India’s Atomic Energy Commission) have estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of land surveyed in Southern Karnataka’s Mandya district recently.
      • Also to be India’s first ever Lithium deposit site found.
  • Other Potential Sites in India:
    • The major mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh.
    • Pegmatite (igneous rocks) belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
    • Brines of Sambhar and Pachpadra in Rajasthan, and Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat.
  • Related Government Initiative:
    • India, through a newly state-owned company Khanij Bidesh India Ltd, had signed an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium in Argentina.
      • Khanij Bidesh India Ltd has a specific mandate to acquire strategic mineral assets such as lithium and cobalt abroad.

Source: PIB

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