Isotopes Of Lithium
Naturally occurring lithium (chemical symbol Li) (standard atomic mass: 6.941(2) atomic mass units, a.m.u.) is composed of two stable isotopes, lithium-6 and lithium-7, with the latter being by far the more abundant one: about 92.5 percent of the atoms. Both of the natural isotopes have an unexpectedly low nuclear binding energy per nucleon when compared with the adjacent lighter and heavier elements, helium and beryllium. This means that solely among the stable light elements, lithium can release energy through nuclear fission. The most stable radioisotope of lithium is lithium-8, which has a half-life of just 838 milliseconds. Lithium-9 has a half-life of 178 milliseconds, and lithium-11 has a half-life of about 8.6 milliseconds. All of the remaining isotopes of lithium have half-lives that are smaller than 10 nanoseconds. The shortest-lived known isotope of lithium is lithium-4 which decays by proton emission with a half-life of about 7.6x10−23 seconds.
Lithium-7 and lithium-6 are two of the primordial nuclides that were produced in the Big Bang. A small percentage of lithium-6 is also known to produced by nuclear reactions in certain stars. The isotopes of lithium separate somewhat during a variety of geological processes, including mineral formation (chemical precipitation and ion exchange). Lithium ions replace magnesium or iron in certain octahedral locations in clays, and lithium-6 is sometimes preferred over lithium-7. This results in some enrichment of lithium-7 in geological processes.
Lithium-6 is an important isotope in nuclear physics because when it is bombarded with neutrons, tritium (heavy, heavy hydrogen) is produced.
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