Material Insights: Lithium Hydroxide in Battery Technology


Composition and Properties

LiOH is an inorganic compound composed of lithium ions (Li+) and hydroxide ions (OH-). It is a white crystalline solid that is highly soluble in water and other polar organic solvents. When dissolved in water, LiOH dissociates into its constituent ions and is a strong base. It has a melting point of approximately 525°C and boiling point of approximately 1,330°C. Due to its high solubility, heat stable nature, and strong basic properties, LiOH has found a wide range of applications across many industries.

Battery Technology

One of the most important uses of LiOH is in the production of lithium-ion batteries. Lithium Hydroxide is used to manufacture lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), which serves as the primary cathode material in lithium-ion batteries. Lithium carbonate reacts with cobalt oxide to form lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), one of the most commonly used cathode compounds. LiOH also plays a role in manufacturing other advanced lithium-metal oxide compounds like lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) which are gaining popularity as safer cathode materials. With the increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries for consumer electronics as well as electric vehicles, the market for Lithium Hydroxide is also growing substantially.

Air and Water Treatment

Due to its strong basic properties, LiOH finds widespread application in various air and water treatment processes. It is commonly used for removing carbon dioxide from ambient air or industrial exhaust streams through absorption. The absorbed CO2 reacts with the LiOH to form relatively stable lithium carbonate. Similarly, Lithium Hydroxide can effectively remove acids, sulfur compounds, and other pollutants from industrial wastewater through neutralization and precipitation reactions. It is also used for adjusting pH in various aqueous systems like boilers, cooling towers, and swimming pools. Owing to its effectiveness and non-toxic nature, LiOH is the base of choice for many air scrubbing and water purification applications.

Metal Processing

Being a strong base, LiOH plays an important supporting role in metal extraction and processing. It is used in the production of aluminum through the Hall-Héroult process where LiOH is added to alumina (Al2O3) to lower its melting point, allowing electrolysis at more energy efficient temperatures. In primary steel production, Lithium Hydroxide addition improves slagBasicityandesulfurization during BOF and EAF processing. Similarly, in secondary aluminum production from drosses and swarf, LiOH facilitates dross dissolution. It is also used as a flux in welding and brazing of reactive metals like magnesium to prevent oxidation. The growing metals industry has further boosted demand for LiOH in recent years.

Heat Treatment of Metals

An uncommon but important use of LiOH is in the heat treatment of metals. When used as an additive in salt baths and other flux solutions, LiOH promotes dissolution of protective surface oxides on ferrous and non-ferrous alloys during heat treating processes like brazing, soldering, annealing etc. This allows for better wetting and bonding. Similarly, Lithium Hydroxide also improves fettling and descaling of heat treated parts by accelerating oxidation/rust formation. Compared to sodium and potassium hydroxide, LiOH provides better viscosity control and thermal stability at high temperatures making it suitable for seam welding and induction hardening of critical components.

Ceramic and Glass Manufacturing

Lithium Hydroxide serves as a useful fluxing agent and viscosity modifier for various ceramic and glass compositions as well. In ceramics production, LiOH helps reduce the melting point of clay and improves plastic behavior during shaping. This allows ceramics to be formed at lower temperatures saving energy. In glass manufacturing, precise amounts of LiOH are added to control glass viscosity and decrease melting temperatures. The sodium in traditional glass is partly replaced by lithium ions enhancing strength and thermal resistance properties of the final product. Specialty glass such as borosilicate glass for scientific apparatus, quartz glass tubes, and solar panels all rely on lithium compounds including LiOH.

Nuclear Applications

Due to its effectiveness in absorbing gaseous fission products, LiOH finds applications in nuclear technology as well. It is used as a cracking agent for recovery of tritium gas from heavy water nuclear reactors. Finely powdered LiOH gets intimately mixed with heavy water moderator in CANDU type reactors to chemically absorb and retain radioactive isotopes like tritium. Similarly, lithium salts of uranium and plutonium like lithium fluoride are prepared using Lithium Hydroxide for processing of nuclear fuels. Lithium compounds also act as neutron moderators and find use in experimental fusion reactors where strong absorption of gases like hydrogen isotopes is required for plasma containment and heating.

Other Industrial Uses

Aside from the major uses outlined above, LiOH also has several niche applications leveraging its chemical properties. It is used as a pH regulator and hardener in industrial soaps, cleansing powders and cosmetics. In organic synthesis, LiOH serves as a selective base for nucleophilic substitutions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers utilize lithium salts prepared from LiOH in mood stabilizing drugs and lithium-ion containing ceramics are being researched for implantable medical devices. Lubricating greases prepared with Lithium Hydroxide have better corrosion protection and high-temperature stability. It also finds some use as a food additive, and in analytical chemistry as a titration agent. With continual material science advances, newer applications of this versatile industrial chemical are also being developed.


1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it”