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is it safe to store lithium metal in alcohol to stop oxidization? Answered

i extracted some lithium metal from some new lithium batteries i bought at a second hand shop really cheaply . ive extracted the metal from one, but now, after placing it under vegetable oil to store, then putting in water, the vegetable oil works too well seperating the lithium form the water, making small lithium combustion reactions very difficult and i really want to show my friends the marvels of lithium on water,

so i want to know, is it safe to store lithium in methylated spirits, or some other hydrocarbon that will evaporate away really fast , and not inhibit the lithium's reaction with water, like canola oil does?

clean lithium usually combusts when i put it in water , and the reaction is quite fast.
but when i put oily lithium in water, the same does not happen, the reaction is slow, and no combustion occurs unless i use my jet lighter.



Best Answer 7 years ago

Schools store lithium and its kin under mineral oil, sealed in an air-tight jar.

+1 that's how I store my sodium.

Only this community would answer with "thats how I store my *insert volatile compound here*" when someone asks about how to store stuff that nobody would reasonably have!


You would be surprised at how many home chemist there are in the USA. I know many who make and store metals, and all of them use mineral oil to do so.

Kids like to see a small sodium marble run over a pan of water on a blue flame.

Yes.... safety glasses and clothes for all,
heighten their wonder and experience.

Nice, I'D like to see that :-)

Methyl alcohol (methylated spirits, wood alcohol) will react with lithium, sodium, potassium, etc. Not as violently as they react with water, but very rapidly nonetheless, with evolution of hydrogen gas. Other alcohols (ethanol or grain alcohol; isopropanol or rubbing alcohol) will also react with those active metals.

Kerosene (diesel fuel) may work ok as long as it hasn't been adulterated with alcohol.  Lighter fluid may work but it is something to be tried first, on a small scale.

Be careful!

Hey! Do you have any evidence that hydrogen gas will be evolved when lithium is put in ethanol?

Some of the many things you should never store you alkali metals in:
1. Water: your water will be deprotonated to yield an alkali hydroxide and hydrogen gas, often explosively.

2. ALCOHOLS: Alkali metals can also deprotonate alcohols in a manner very similar to their reaction with water. It won't be as violent, but I tend to think of any reaction that tends to generate hydrogen gas and heat in proximity to a highly flammable liquid (an alcohol solvent) as a pretty bad thing.
3. Alkyl halides (a hydrocarbon with one or more halogen substituents), these like to form organometallic compounds, which are bad motherfuckers: super basic, love to attack many usually unreactive functional groups (like carbonyls) generally not fun to have around if you don't know what you're doing.

4. Acetone (or any solvent containing an aldehyde or ketone)

I use vegetable oil. And when I need to use the lithium, I dry it off with paper towels. Or use acetone, it evaporates the oil. But wear gloves, the acetone soaks into your skin, making you flammable!

Not in alcohol
Heavy paraffin is usual, but you can wash it off with e.g. white-spirit, gasoline or lighter-fuel.
Vegetable oil is not as good as inorganic-hydrocarbons.


so your saying i could easily wash the oil off with white spirits? would it work better washing off vaseline?

I reckon so, but vaseline is a bit thick. "Baby oil" may be better?


whatever gets it oil free and ready to ignite on water the better.
Ill have a best answer as soon as ive tried yoir method and see bettr results!

Don't put Lithium in alcohol. She'll drown, or emerge drunk.

And she might kill you if you coated her with veggie oil, but then again she might not, few people know much about her.

It is not safe to store lithium in alcohol. Alcohol is hydrophilic and attracts water rather than repel it like oils do.

If you absolutely must store lithium in something volatile look for a non-polar solvent. Polar solvents (alcohol for example) can contain water whereas Non-polar solvents (hexane for example) cannot contain water. Be aware however that pretty much all solvents are nasty chemicals which are hazardous for your health on several levels (toxicity, flammability, etc)

What you can do however is store the lithium in oil and then wash it with alcohol right before using it, but be careful anyhow.

Compared to the other group 1 metals lithium is quite tame but be careful when using it.

You don't wash alkali-metals with alcohol, because they react with it. And alcohol isn't that good on oil anyway.
Lithium reacts with even very weak acids like water & alcohols, hydrophillic doesn't really apply.
Hexane is good for a wash, but as you point out n-hexane is a bit poisonous (iso-hexane is nicer but more expensive)


I've seen a nasty-looking fire caused by K and IPA, ultimately that contributed to me being hospitalised (I can't find the photo though..)


Store Group I metals under oil