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Exploding Lithium Answered

Does any body know how to get lithium out of those battery's? it produces hydrogen gas and may ignite on contact with water.



I've seen posts (rogue-sci?) where lithium batteries were cut open for the lithium. The poster also noted getting a "lithium high." If you expect an 'explosion' on contact with water, don't forget that YOU are about 90% water...


10 years ago

Lithium batteries also frequently contain a fluorine compound in the (flammable) electrolyte, and when a lithium battery burns it can produce Hydrogen Fluoride (Hydrofluoric acid) which is even nastier than lithium.

Alas, lithium isn't active enough to "explode" on contact with water. It'll float and scoot around; you MIGHT get an explosion if the hydrogen release ignites. (our 11th grade chem teacher did the demo. Piece of lithium: scoot and fizzle. Piece of sodium: sputter and flame. Piece of potassium: much closer to "explode." (bets are off if you play with larger quantities. See Theodore Gray's "Sodium Party"

The "radioactive boyscout" kid used tin snips or scissors I think.... You know, that person that was trying to make a breeder reactor in his back yard :p


For starters, remember that Lithium is nasty stuff to work with. Not only is it possible for it to explode in water, it can spontaneously combust in air. It's not as bad as sodium or potassium, but wear gloves and eye protection. Also, lithium is very reactive, which is why it is used in the best batteries. This reactivity extends to oxygen; it will oxidize, corrode, and disintegrate very quickly, i.e., within a day.

So... Break open the batteries and let us know if you still have your fingers/hands after dropping it in water.