How to make a model of a lithium atom

atom image by Oleg Verbitsky from <a href=''></a>

Lithium is the lightest metal known. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are at the cutting-edge of battery design, delivering more power for the weight than any other battery. Lithium, however, is highly inflammable in oxygen, making Li-ion batteries some of the most dangerous batteries too.

A model of a lithium atom consists of three protons, four neutrons, and three electrons. Creating a model lithium atom requires some dexterity and the ability to use simple tools such as paintbrushes, wire-cutters, and glue.

Paint the seven balls representing protons and neutrons. Push a cocktail stick into each ball, and holding it by the stick, paint four of them with red paint. Push the cocktail sticks into a flat block of polystyrene and leave the balls to dry. While the red balls are drying, insert sticks into the remaining three large balls and paint them green. Push these sticks into the polystyrene block and leave them to dry too. Repeat with the smaller balls representing three electrons, coating them with yellow paint.

Remove the sticks once the paint is dry. Using wire-cutters, cut the cocktail sticks into one-inch strips. Push the sticks into the red and green balls to link them into a tight bundle as close to a sphere as possible. When you are happy with the shape of the nucleus, add glue between the balls and allow it to set.

Add electrons in two different orbits around the nucleus. Insert two four-inch wires into the nucleus, with the wires pointing straight out. Insert both wires to the same depth, and then impale a yellow ball on the outer end of each wire. Insert an eight-inch wire at a different point on the nucleus and impale the final yellow ball on the outer end of this wire.