Sunday, March 25, 2012


Hydrogen (H)
One of hydrogen's isotopes, tritium (3H) is radioactive. Tritium is produced in nuclear reactors and is used in the production of the hydrogen bomb. It is also used as a radioactive agent in making luminous paints and as a tracer isotope.
  • commercial fixation of nitrogen from the air in the Haber ammonia process
  • hydrogenation of fats and oils
  • methanol production, in hydrodealkylation, hydrocracking, and hydrodesulphurization
  • rocket fuel
  • welding
  • production of hydrochloric acid
  • reduction of metallic ores
  • for filling balloons (hydrogen gas much lighter than air; however it ignites easily)
  • liquid H2 is important in cryogenics and in the study of superconductivity since its melting point is only just above absolute zero

Lithium (Li)
Both lithium metal and its compounds have many uses.
  • lithium stearate is mixed with oils to make all-purpose and high-temperature lubricants
  • lithium hydroxide is used to absorb carbon dioxide in space vehicles
  • lithium is alloyed with aluminium, copper, manganese, and cadmium to make high perfomance alloys for aircraft
  • Bahnmetall consists of lead containing 0.04% lithium, 0.7% calcium and 0.6% sodium is harder than pure lead and was used for railroad car bearings in Germany.
  • compounds such as LiAlH4 and organolithium reagents (LiMe, LiPh, etc.) are very important as reagents in organic chemistry
  • lithium metal has the highest specific heat of any solid element and so heat transfer applications
  • various nuclear applications
  • lithium is sometimes used as battery anode material (high electrochemical potential) and lithium compounds are used in dry cells and storage batteries
  • lithium is used in the manufacture of special high strength glasses and ceramics
  • sometimes, lithium-based compounds such as lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) are used as drugs to treat manic-depressive disorders.
 Sodium (Na)
  • sodium metal is used in the preparation of tetraethyl lead, PbEt4, an important anti-knock reagent in leaded petrol (gasoline) - fortunately being phased out in many countries because of lead pollution problems
  • sodium metal is used in the preparation of titanium metal from TiCl4
  • the metal is used in the manufacture of sodamide, sodium cyanide, sodium peroxide, and sodium hydride
  • the metal is used in the reduction of organic esters, and in the preparation of organic compounds
  • the alloy with potassium, NaK, is an important heat transfer agent and a good chemical reducing agent (as some proportions of Na and K are liquid at room temperature).
  • sodium compounds including "common salt" (sodium chloride, NaCl), "soda ash" (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3), "baking soda" (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, "bicarb"), and "caustic soda" (sodium hydroxide, NaOH), are important to the paper, glass, soap, textile, petroleum, chemical, and metal industries
  • sodium vapour is used in lamps for street lighting
  • table salt - don't use too much!

Potassium (K)
  • The superoxide KO2 is used in breathing apparatus where moisture in the breath and carbon dioxide reacts with it to release oxygen [2KO2 + H2O + 2CO2 → 2KHCO3 + O2 ]
  • the alloy of potassium with sodium (NaK) is used as a heat-transfer medium in nuclear reactors. The alloy is liquid at ambient temperature and is a good reducing agent in the chemistry laboratory
  • fertilizers - usually as the chloride, sulphate, nitrate, or carbonate
  • possium nitrate, KNO3, and potassium chlorate, KClO3, are used in fireworks
  • potassium bromide, KBr, was used as an antaphrodisiac - oh dear!
  • potassium permanganate, KMnO4, is an important oxidizing agent
  • low-sodium salt
  • potassium hydroxide is used in the preparation of potassium phosphates for liquid detergents

Rubidium (Rb)
  • rubidium is easily ionized, and so has possible use in "ion engines" for space vehicles (but caesium is somewhat more efficient)
  • used as a "getter" in vacuum tubes
  • photocell component
  • used for making special glasses
  • RbAg4I5 has the highest room temperature conductivity of any known ionic crystal. At ambient temperature, its conductivity is about the same as dilute sulphuric acid, suggesting uses in thin film batteries

Caesium (Cs)
  • the metal can be used in ion propulsion systems. Although not usable in the earth's atmosphere, 1 kg of caesium in outer space could propel a vehicle 140 times as far as the burning of the same amount of any known liquid or solid. It is more efficient than rubidium.
  • used in atomic clocks
  • because of its high oxygen affinity, the metal is used as a "getter" in electron tubes
  • used in photoelectric cells and vacuum tubes
  • IR lamps

Francium (Fr)
  • Francium has no uses.

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