When Lithium Oxide Is Added to Water It Forms a Basic Solution.

When Lithium Oxide Is Added to Water It Forms a Basic Solution

Lithium oxide (Li2O) is a chemical compound that is known for its ability to form a basic solution when added to water. This reaction is of significant interest in various fields, including chemistry, materials science, and energy storage. In this article, we will explore the properties of lithium oxide, the reaction it undergoes with water, and its applications. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions about this intriguing chemical compound.

Properties of Lithium Oxide:

Lithium oxide is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula Li2O. It appears as a white solid and is classified as an ionic compound. Its crystal structure consists of lithium cations (Li+) and oxide anions (O2-) arranged in a crystal lattice. Lithium oxide is highly reactive due to the presence of the oxide ion, which is a strong base.

Reaction with Water:

When lithium oxide is added to water, a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the formation of lithium hydroxide (LiOH). The reaction can be represented by the following equation:

Li2O + H2O → 2LiOH

This reaction is exothermic, meaning it releases heat. The addition of water causes the lithium oxide to dissociate, breaking down into lithium ions (Li+) and oxide ions (O2-). The oxide ions then react with water molecules, producing hydroxide ions (OH-) and lithium hydroxide.

Formation of Basic Solution:

The presence of hydroxide ions in the solution contributes to its basic nature. Lithium hydroxide is a strong base, capable of accepting protons (H+) from acids, thus increasing the concentration of hydroxide ions. As a result, the solution becomes alkaline or basic.

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The formation of a basic solution when lithium oxide is added to water has several applications in various fields:

1. Energy Storage: Lithium-ion batteries, widely used in portable electronic devices, rely on the lithium hydroxide formed by the reaction of lithium oxide with water. The basic solution helps in conducting ions within the battery, facilitating the flow of charge.

2. Desiccant: Lithium hydroxide is a potent desiccant, meaning it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air. This property makes it useful in air conditioning systems and enclosed environments, such as submarines.

3. CO2 Absorption: Lithium hydroxide is also employed in the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is used in systems like rebreathers, where it removes carbon dioxide exhaled by the user, providing a continuous supply of oxygen.

4. Catalyst: Lithium hydroxide can act as a catalyst in certain chemical reactions, including the synthesis of esters and the production of biodiesel. It aids in speeding up these reactions, making them more efficient.


1. Is lithium oxide safe to handle?

Lithium oxide is corrosive and can cause burns if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes. It should be handled with caution, and proper protective equipment, such as gloves and goggles, should be worn.

2. Can lithium hydroxide be used in water treatment?

Yes, lithium hydroxide can be used to adjust the pH of water and neutralize acidity. However, its use in water treatment is limited due to its high cost compared to other alkaline substances.

3. Does lithium hydroxide dissolve in water?

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Yes, lithium hydroxide is highly soluble in water. When added to water, it readily dissociates into lithium and hydroxide ions, forming a basic solution.

4. How is lithium oxide produced?

Lithium oxide is typically produced through the reaction of lithium carbonate with high-temperature furnaces. The carbonate decomposes, yielding lithium oxide and carbon dioxide as byproducts.

In conclusion, when lithium oxide is added to water, it forms a basic solution due to the reaction with water molecules. This reaction leads to the formation of lithium hydroxide, a strong base. The ability of lithium oxide to produce a basic solution has practical applications in energy storage, desiccation, CO2 absorption, and catalysis. However, precautions should be taken when handling lithium oxide due to its corrosive nature.

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