Keep hearing that we are running out of lithium, so how close are we to combining protons and electrons to form elements from the periodic table?

Ethan Davis Ethan Davis Jul 01, 2021 · 2 mins read
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In recent years, there has been growing concern regarding the future availability of lithium, an essential component of the batteries used in everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles. Despite this, some scientists are exploring the possibility of generating elements from the periodic table by combining protons and electrons.

Protons and electrons are the fundamental particles that make up all atoms. When protons and neutrons bind together in the nucleus of an atom, they form an element from the periodic table. So far, scientists have been able to generate elements only by colliding two atoms together at high energies in a particle accelerator.

Combining protons and electrons is an altogether different task. It involves creating an artificially confined environment that lets protons and electrons interact long enough to form an atom. The tricky part is confining the highly charged protons without them colliding into one another.

One proposed approach involves using magnetic fields to trap protons in a vacuum chamber. The vacuum would be filled with electrons, creating a plasma of negatively charged particles. The magnetic field would confine the protons and electrons to the same region, enabling them to interact and form atoms.

The difficulty in this approach is getting the electrons and protons to interact over a long enough timescale to form the desired atoms. The electrons would need to be confined within the same region as the protons for a duration of several milliseconds, which has proven to be exceedingly challenging.

Another approach is to use lasers to induce protons and electrons to combine. In this method, the charged particles would be brought close together using intense lasers. The energy from the laser creates a strong electromagnetic field which can bond the protons and electrons together to form neutrons, thus creating the basis for the required elements.

While researchers have been able to produce some elements using this method, the process is still incredibly energy-intensive, and it is uncertain if it could ever be scaled up to create elements in a cost-effective manner.

In conclusion, while the idea of creating elements from protons and electrons may seem appealing, it is still a long way off in terms of practical implementation. While scientists continue to experiment with different methods, it is essential that we focus on sustainable alternatives to lithium to ensure that we do not face a shortage of this vital resource. With the advancement of technology and science, there remains some hope that the energy requirements and sustainability can be sorted to enable this idea to come to fruition.

Ethan Davis
Written by Ethan Davis
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