The universe's lithium supply is, at the most one-third of what it should be. Now, black holes have been considered a source of the element, but that only complicates things more as it deepens the question of how all of it disappears.
Lithium - a popular treatment for bi-polar disorder, which was among the first three elements synthesized in the Big Bang - has, unlike helium and hydrogen, has had "predictions appear to be way too high," reports the American Physical Society.
In a publication known as Physical Review Letters, a collective of scientists theorize that several hundreds of thousands of black holes in the Milky Way are also capable of abundant lithium production since the "hot cloud of matter" that skirts them are, in fact, able to bring about nuclear fusion, APS says.
This new theory could, in fact, further complicate the puzzle that has bewildered scientists for 30 years. The spectra of the galaxy's oldest and most pristine stars' containment of isotope lithium-7 has very little difference in quantity from one body to the next. Despite an interpretation detailing the notion that the consistency results from lithium-7-abundant stars share common ground; that being the nuclear fusion stemming from the Big Bang.
However, when it comes to other elements - namely, deuterium, helium-3, and helium-4, - not only do quantities vary considerably, but are correctly predicted amount-wise where as lithium-7 levels are only at half, or even less than predicted.
In other words, reports Sky and Telescope: "the universe doesn't have enough lithium."
30 years ago, Monique and François Spite of the Paris Observatory, noticed that lithium-7 was much more lacking in old, metal-poor stars occupying the Milky Way's halo than it really should have been. Since such stars are fairly cool and have been poorly mixed between their surfaces and interiors, they should have kept up better with primordial quantities.
The aforementioned lack of of lithium was subsequently (and appropriately) dubbed "the lithium problem."
The black hole obstacle was introduced by Sweden's Fabio Iocco, and Germany's Miguel Pato.
Recently a concept involving stellar-mass black holes known as "mircoquasars," which steal material from a stellar mate and thus shoot "jets of superhot plasma into space."
Iocco and Pato observed the acceleration discs that surround these black holes, which can hit temperatures of hundreds of billions of degrees Kelvin, and drew the conclusion that these amounts of heat can get high enough to trigger the helium reactions and make lithium.
They discovered that if just 1 percent of these microquasars produced said type of heat, lithium-7 levels would mirror those made in the hours just after the Big Bang.
The question of where all the lithium is going has yet to be answered.