grey white
General properties
Name, symbol, number rubidium, Rb, 37
Pronunciation /rʉˈbɪdiəm/ roo-bid-ee-əm
Element category alkali metal
Group, period, block 1, 5, s
Standard atomic weight 85.4678(3)
Electron configuration [Kr] 5s1
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 8, 1 (Image)
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 1.532 g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 1.46 g·cm−3
Melting point 312.46 K, 39.31 °C, 102.76 °F
Boiling point 961 K, 688 °C, 1270 °F
Critical point (extrapolated) 2093 K, 16 MPa
Heat of fusion 2.19 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 75.77 kJ·mol−1
Molar heat capacity 31.060 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 434 486 552 641 769 958
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 1
(strongly basic oxide)
Electronegativity 0.82 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies 1st: 403 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 2632.1 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 3859.4 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 248 pm
Covalent radius 220±9 pm
Van der Waals radius 303 pm
Crystal structure body-centered cubic
Magnetic ordering paramagnetic[1]
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) 128 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity 58.2 W·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) (20 °C) 1300 m·s−1
Young's modulus 2.4 GPa
Bulk modulus 2.5 GPa
Mohs hardness 0.3
Brinell hardness 0.216 MPa
CAS registry number 7440-17-7
Most stable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of rubidium
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
83Rb syn 86.2 d ε - 83Kr
γ 0.52, 0.53,
84Rb syn 32.9 d ε - 84Kr
β+ 1.66, 0.78 84Kr
γ 0.881 -
β 0.892 84Sr
85Rb 72.168% 85Rb is stable with 48 neutrons
86Rb syn 18.65 d β 1.775 86Sr
γ 1.0767 -
87Rb 27.835% 4.88×1010 y β 0.283 87Sr
v ·  /rʉˈbɪdiəm/ roo-bid-ee-əm) is a chemical element with the symbol Rb and atomic number 37. Rubidium is a soft, silvery-white metallic element of the alkali metal group. Its atomic mass is 85.4678. Elemental rubidium is highly reactive, with properties similar to those of other elements in group 1, such as very rapid oxidation in air. Rubidium has only one stable isotope, 85Rb. The isotope 87Rb, which composes almost 28% of naturally occurring rubidium, is radioactive and has a half-life of 49 billion years—more than three times longer than the estimated age of the universe.

German chemists Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff discovered rubidium in 1861 by the newly developed method of flame spectroscopy. Its compounds have chemical and electronic applications. Rubidium metal is easily vaporized and has a convenient spectral absorption range, making it a frequent target for laser manipulation of atoms.

Rubidium is not known to be necessary for any living organisms. However, like caesium, rubidium ions are handled by living organisms in a manner similar to potassium ions: they are actively taken up by plants and living animal cells.



Rubidium is a very soft, ductile, silvery-white metal.[2] It is the second most electropositive of the non-radioactive alkali metals and melts at a temperature of 39.3 °C (102.7 °F). Similar to other alkali metals, this metal reacts violently with water, forms amalgams with mercury and alloys with gold, iron, caesium, sodium, and potassium, but not lithium (despite the fact that rubidium and lithium are in the same group).[3] As with potassium (which is slightly less reactive) and caesium (which is slightly more reactive), this reaction is usually vigorous enough to ignite the hydrogen gas it liberates. Rubidium has also been reported to ignite spontaneously in air.[2] Rubidium has a very low ionization energy of only 406 kJ/mol.[4] Rubidium and potassium show a very similar violet color in the flame test, which makes spectroscopy methods necessary to distinguish the two elements.


Rubidium chloride (RbCl) is probably the most used rubidium compound; it is used in biochemistry to induce cells to take up DNA, and as a biomarker since it is readily taken up to replace potassium, and occurs in only small quantities in living organisms. Other common rubidium compounds are the corrosive rubidium hydroxide (RbOH), the starting material for most rubidium-based chemical processes; rubidium carbonate (RbCO3), which is used in some optical glasses, and rubidium copper sulfate, Rb2SO4•CuSO4•6H2O. Rubidium silver iodide (RbAg4I5) has the highest room temperature conductivity of any known ionic crystal, a property that is being exploited in thin film batteries and other applications.[5][6]

Rubidium has a number of oxides, including rubidium monoxide (Rb2O), Rb6O and Rb9O2, which form if rubidium metal is exposed to air; rubidium in excess oxygen gives the superoxide RbO2. Rubidium forms salts with halides, making rubidium fluoride, rubidium chloride, rubidium bromide and rubidium iodide.


Naturally occurring rubidium is composed of two isotopes: the stable 85Rb (72.2%) and the radioactive 87Rb (27.8%).[7] Natural rubidium is radioactive with specific activity of about 670 Bq/g, enough to significantly expose a photographic film in 110 days.[8][9] Aside from 85Rb and 87Rb, another 24 isotopes are known with half times of under 3 months. Most of them are highly radioactive and have little uses.

Rubidium-87 has a half-life of 48.8×109 years, which is more than three times the age of the universe of 13.75 ± 0.11 ×109 years,[10] making it a Primordial nuclide. It readily substitutes for potassium in minerals, and is therefore fairly widespread. Rb has been used extensively in dating rocks; 87Rb decays to stable 87Sr by emission of a negative beta particle. During fractional crystallization, Sr tends to become concentrated in plagioclase, leaving Rb in the liquid phase. Hence, the Rb/Sr ratio in residual magma may increase over time, resulting in rocks with elevated Rb/Sr ratios due to progressing differentiation. The highest ratios (10 or more) occur in pegmatites. If the initial amount of Sr is known or can be extrapolated then the age can be determined by measurement of the Rb and Sr concentrations and of the 87Sr/86Sr ratio. The dates indicate the true age of the minerals only if the rocks have not been subsequently altered (see rubidium-strontium dating).[11][12]

One of the non-natural isotopes rubidium-82 is produced by electron capture decay of Strontium-82 with a half-life of 25.36 days. The subsequent decay of rubidium-82 with a half-life of 76 seconds to stable krypton-82 happens by positron emission.[7]


Rubidium is the twenty-third most abundant element in the Earth's crust, roughly as abundant as zinc and rather more common than copper.[13] It occurs naturally in the minerals leucite, pollucite, carnallite and zinnwaldite, which contain up to 1% of its oxide. Lepidolite contains between 0.3% and 3.5% rubidium and this is the commercial source of the element.[14] Some potassium minerals and potassium chlorides also contain the element in commercially significant amounts.[15]

Sea water contains an average of 125 µg/L of rubidium compared to the much higher value for potassium of 408 mg/L and the much lower value of 0.3 µg/L for caesium[16]

Because of its large ionic radius, rubidium is one of the "incompatible elements."[17] During magma crystallization, rubidium is concentrated together with its heavier analogue caesium in the liquid phase and crystallizes last. Therefore the largest deposits of rubidium and caesium are zone pegmatite ore bodies formed by this enrichment process. Because rubidium substitutes for potassium in the crystallization of magma, the enrichment is far less effective than in the case of caesium. Zone pegmatite ore bodies containing mineable quantities of caesium as pollucite or the lithium minerals lepidolite are also a source for rubidium as a by-product.[13]

Two notable sources of rubidium are the rich deposits of pollucite at Bernic Lake, Manitoba. Both of these are also sources of caesium. Rubicline ((Rb,K)AlSi3O8) found as impurities in pollucite on the Italian island of Elba with a rubidium content of 17.5%[18]


Although rubidium is more abundant in Earth's crust than caesium the limited applications and the lack of a mineral rich in rubidium limits the production of rubidium compounds to 2 to 4 tonnes per year.[13] There are several methods to separate potassium, rubidium and caesium. The fractional crystallization of a rubidium and caesium alum (Cs,Rb)Al(SO4)2·12H2O yields after 30 subsequent steps pure rubidium alum. Reports of two other methods are given in the literature the chlorostannate process and the ferrocyanide process.[13][19] For several years in the 1950s and 1960s a by-product of the potassium production called Alkarb was a main source for rubidium. Alkarb contained 21% rubidium while the rest was potassium and a small fraction of caesium.[20] Today the largest producers of caesium, for example the Tanco Mine, Manitoba, Canada, produce rubidium as by-product from pollucite.[13]


Rubidium was discovered in 1861 by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff, in Heidelberg, Germany, in the mineral lepidolite through the use of a spectroscope. Because of the bright red lines in its emission spectrum, they chose a name derived from the Latin word rubidus, meaning "dark red".[21][22]

 Three middle-aged men, with the one in the middle sitting down. All wear long jackets, and the shorter man on the left has a beard.
Gustav Kirchhoff (left) and Robert Bunsen (center) discovered rubidium spectroscopically. (Also visible is Henry Enfield Roscoe on the right side.)

Rubidium is present as a minor component in lepidolite. Kirchhoff and Bunsen processed 150 kg of a lepidolite containing only 0.24% rubidium oxide (Rb2O). Potassium, rubidium form insoluble salts with chloroplatinic acid, but these salts show a slight difference in solubility in hot water. Therefore, the less-soluble rubidium hexachloroplatinate (Rb2PtCl6) could be obtained by fractional crystallization. After reduction of the hexachloroplatinate with hydrogen, rubidium could be separated by the difference in solubility of their carbonates in alcohol. This process yielded 0.51 grams of rubidium chloride for further studies. The first large scale isolation of caesium and rubidium compounds, performed from 44,000 liters of mineral water by Bunsen and Kirchhoff, yielded, besides 7.3 grams of caesium chloride, also 9.2 grams of rubidium chloride.[21][22] Rubidium was the second element, shortly after caesium, to be discovered spectroscopically, only one year after the invention of the spectroscope by Bunsen and Kirchhoff.[23]

The two scientists used the rubidium chloride thus obtained to estimate the atomic weight of the new element as 85.36 (the currently accepted value is 85.47).[21] They tried to generate elemental rubidium by electrolysis of molten rubidium chloride, but instead of a metal, they obtained a blue homogenous substance which "neither under the naked eye nor under the microscope showed the slightest trace of metallic substance." They assigned it as a subchloride (Rb2Cl); however, the product was probably a colloidal mixture of the metal and rubidium chloride.[24] In a second experiment to produce metallic rubidium Bunsen was able to reduce rubidium by heating charred rubidium tartrate. Although the distilled rubidium was pyrophoric it was possible to determine the density and the melting point of rubidium. The quality of the research done in the 1860s can be appraised by the fact that the determined density differs less than 0.1 g/cm3 and the melting point by less than 1 °C from the presently accepted values.[25]

The slight radioactivity of rubidium was discovered in 1908 but before the theory of isotopes was established in the 1910s and the low activity due to the long half-life of above 1010 years made interpretation complicated. The now proven decay of 87Rb to stable 87Sr through beta decay was still under discussion in the late 1940s.[26][27]

Rubidium had minimal industrial value before the 1920s.[28] Since then, the most important use of rubidium has been in research and development, primarily in chemical and electronic applications. In 1995, rubidium-87 was used to produce a Bose-Einstein condensate,[29] for which the discoverers won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.[30]


A rubidium fountain atomic clock at the United States Naval Observatory

Rubidium compounds are sometimes used in fireworks to give them a purple color.[31] Rubidium has also been considered for use in a thermoelectric generator using the magnetohydrodynamic principle, where rubidium ions are formed by heat at high temperature and passed through a magnetic field.[32] These conduct electricity and act like an armature of a generator thereby generating an electric current. Rubidium, particularly vaporized 87Rb, is one of the most commonly used atomic species employed for laser cooling and Bose-Einstein condensation. Its desirable features for this application include the ready availability of inexpensive diode laser light at the relevant wavelength, and the moderate temperatures required to obtain substantial vapor pressures.[33][citation needed][34]

Rubidium has been used for polarizing 3He, producing volumes of magnetized 3He gas, with the nuclear spins aligned toward a particular direction in space, rather than randomly. Rubidium vapor is optically pumped by a laser and the polarized Rb polarizes 3He through the hyperfine interaction.[35] Spin-polarized 3He cells are becoming popular for neutron polarization measurements and for producing polarized neutron beams for other purposes.[36]

Rubidium is the main component of secondary frequency references (rubidium oscillators) to maintain frequency accuracy in cell site transmitters and other electronic transmitting, networking and test equipment. This rubidium standard are often used with GPS to produce a "primary frequency standard" that has greater accuracy and is less expensive than caesium standards.[37][38] Rubidium standards are mass-produced for the telecommunication industry.[39]

Other potential or current uses of rubidium include a working fluid in vapor turbines, a getter in vacuum tubes and a photocell component.[40] The resonant element in atomic clocks utilizes the hyperfine structure of rubidium's energy levels.[38] Rubidium is also used as an ingredient in special types of glass, in the production of superoxide by burning in oxygen, in the study of potassium ion channels in biology and as the vapor to make atomic magnetometers.[41] In particular, 87Rb is currently being used, with other alkali metals, in the development of spin-exchange relaxation-free (SERF) magnetometers.[41]

Rubidium-82 is used for positron emission tomography. Rubidium is very similar to potassium and therefore tissue with high potassium content will also accumulate the radioactive rubidium. One of the main uses is in myocardial perfusion imaging. The very short half-life of 76 seconds makes it necessary to produce the rubidium-82 from decay of strontium-82 close to the patient.[42] As a result of changes in the blood brain barrier in brain tumors, rubidium collects more in brain tumors than normal brain tissue, allowing to use the radioisotope rubidium-82 in nuclear medicine to locate and image brain tumors.[43]

Rubidium was tested for the influence on manic depression and depression.[44][45] Dialysis patients suffering from depression show a depletion in rubidium and therefore a supplementation may help during depression.[46] In some tests the rubidium was administered as rubidium chloride with up to 720 mg.[47]

Precautions and biological effects

Rubidium reacts violently with water and can cause fires. To ensure safety and purity, this metal is kept under a dry mineral oil and is usually sealed in glass ampoules in an inert atmosphere. Rubidium forms peroxides on exposure even to small amount of air diffusing into oil, and is thus subject to similar peroxide precautions as storage of metallic potassium.[48]

Rubidium, like sodium and potassium, almost always has +1 oxidation state when dissolved in water, and this includes all biological systems. The human body tends to treat Rb+ ions as if they were potassium ions, and therefore concentrates rubidium in the body's intracellular fluid (i.e., inside cells).[49] The ions are not particularly toxic, a 70 kg person contains on average 0.36 g of rubidium and an increase in this value by 50 to 100 times did not show negative effects in test persons.[50] The biological half-life in humans was measured as 31–46 days.[44] Although a partial substitution of potassium by rubidium is possible, rats with more than 50% of potassium substituted in the muscle tissue died.[51][52]

See also


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  19. ^ bulletin 585. United States. Bureau of Mines. 1995. 
  20. ^ "Cesium and Rubidium Hit Market". Chemical & Engineering News 37 (22): 50. 1959. doi:10.1021/cen-v037n022.p050. 
  21. ^ a b c Kirchhoff,, G.; Bunsen, R. (1861). "Chemische Analyse durch Spectralbeobachtungen". Annalen der Physik und Chemie 189 (7): 337–381. Bibcode 1861AnP...189..337K. doi:10.1002/andp.18611890702. 
  22. ^ a b Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements. XIII. Some spectroscopic discoveries". Journal of Chemical Education 9 (8): 1413–1434. Bibcode 1932JChEd...9.1413W. doi:10.1021/ed009p1413. 
  23. ^ Ritter, Stephen K. (2003). "C&EN: It's Elemental: The Periodic Table – Cesium". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  24. ^ Zsigmondy, Richard (2007). Colloids and the Ultra Microscope. Read books. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4067-5938-9. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
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  26. ^ . doi:10.1080/14786441008520248. 
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  30. ^ Levi, Barbara Goss (2001). "Cornell, Ketterle, and Wieman Share Nobel Prize for Bose-Einstein Condensates". Search & Discovery. Physics Today online. Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
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  33. ^ . 101. 1996. 419–618. 
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  35. ^ Gentile, T. R.; Chen, W. C.; Jones, G. L.; Babcock, E.; Walker, T. G.. "Polarized 3He spin filters for slow neutron physics". Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology 100: 299–304. 
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  41. ^ a b Li, Zhimin; Wakai, Ronald T.; Walker, Thad G. (2006). "Parametric modulation of an atomic magnetometer". Applied Physics Letters 89 (13): 134105. Bibcode 2006ApPhL..89m4105L. doi:10.1063/1.2357553. 
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  43. ^ Yen, CK; Yano, Y; Budinger, TF; Friedland, RP; Derenzo, SE; Huesman, RH; O'Brien, HA (1982). "Brain tumor evaluation using Rb-82 and positron emission tomography". Journal of Nuclear Medicine 23 (6): 532–7. PMID 6281406. 
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Further reading

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rubidium — Krypton ← Rubidium → Strontium K …   Wikipédia en Français

  • RUBIDIUM — Du latin rubidus , rouge foncé Symbole chimique: Rb Numéro atomique: 37 Masse atomique: 85,47 g Point de fusion: 38,9 0C Point d’ébullition: 688 0C Densité (à 20 0C): 1,53. Métal alcalin mou, d’éclat blanc argenté, découvert par voie… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Rubidium — Rb, Atomgew. 85,5, spez. Gew. 1,52, Schmelzpunkt 38,5; weitverbreitetes Metall, aber stets nur in Spuren meistens neben Kaliumverbindungen vorkommend. Bei der technischen Verarbeitung des Carnallits wird es als Rubidiumalaun gewonnen, aus dem die …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Rubidium — Ru*bid i*um, n. [NL., fr. L. rubidus red, fr. rubere to be red. So called from two dark red spectroscopic lines by means of which it was discovered in the lepidolite from Rozena, Moravia. See {Rubicund}.] (Chem.) A rare metallic element of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Rubidĭum — Rb, Alkalimetall, findet sich in der Natur nicht gediegen, aber in Verbindungen sehr verbreitet als gewöhnlicher Begleiter des Cäsiums und andrer Alkalimetalle. So tritt es, aber stets nur in geringer Menge und als unwesentlicher Bestandteil, im… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Rubidium — Rubidĭum (chem. Zeichen Rb), weit verbreitetes, aber immer nur spurenweise auftretendes Alkalimetall, 1861 von Bunsen entdeckt, findet sich in einigen Mineralien, in Salzsolen, Mineralwässern und in den Abraumsalzen, dem Kalium ähnlich,… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • rubidium — Symbol: Rb Atomic number: 37 Atomic weight: 85.47 Soft silvery metallic element, belongs to group 1 of the periodic table. Rb 97, the naturally occurring isotope, is radioactive. It is highly reactive, with properties similar to other elements in …   Elements of periodic system

  • rubidium — [ro͞o bid′ē əm] n. [ModL: so named (1861) by BUNSEN Robert Wilhelm & KIRCHHOFF Gustav Robert < L rubidus, red < ruber,RED (from the red lines in its spectrum) + IUM] a soft, silvery white, metallic chemical element, one of the alkali metals …   English World dictionary

  • rubidium — rubidic, adj. /rooh bid ee euhm/, n. Chem. a silver white, metallic, active element resembling potassium, used in photoelectric cells and radio vacuum tubes. Symbol: Rb; at. wt.: 85.47; at. no.: 37; sp. gr.: 1.53 at 20°C. [1860 65; < NL, equiv.… …   Universalium

  • Rubidium — Eigenschaften …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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