A cosmic puzzle unfolds as scientists grapple with an unidentified force consistently depleting the Universe’s lithium, leaving researchers puzzled.
Lithium, a pivotal alkali metal in aircraft and battery production, defies expectations by its surprising scarcity in the cosmos. Astronomers are currently unravelling the mystery surrounding the rarity of lithium, challenging the ‘standard’ model of the Big Bang.
The conventional model, rooted in nuclear physics, adeptly predicts the abundances of chemical elements formed within 100 to 1,000 seconds post-Big Bang. However, it significantly overestimates lithium’s primordial abundance by three to four times, sparking a puzzling dilemma: either the predictions are flawed, or the measurements are inaccurate.
Scientists are exploring potential solutions to this ‘lithium problem.’ While one avenue investigates the possibility of missing elements in our understanding of nuclear physics, recent research dismisses this hypothesis. Another consideration is the intricate processes inside stars, potentially destroying lithium beyond detection. Though known factors like deep convection zones in cooler stars and the influence of binary stars or planetary systems have been explored, they fall short of explaining the observed discrepancy.
Some scientists propose undiscovered mechanisms in the universe capable of annihilating lithium. Another intriguing hypothesis suggests entirely new physics, influenced by mysterious dark matter or evolving fundamental constants, may be at play during the early universe’s element production.
Numerous theories are being considered to unravel this cosmic mystery. However, the current state of affairs leaves the rarity of lithium in the universe as an enigma waiting to be deciphered.