10 Uses of Rubidium in Everyday Life

Rubidium (Rb), a chemical element of Group 1 (Ia) in the periodic table, an alkali metal group. Rubidium is the second most reactive and very soft metal sequence, with a silvery-white luster.

Rubidium was invented (1861) spectroscopically by German scientists Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff and named after two prominent red lines of its spectrum. Rubidium and cesium are often found together in nature. However, rubidium is spread and rarely forms natural minerals; found only as trash in other minerals, up to 5 percent in minerals like lepidolite, pollucite, and carnalite. Saline water samples have also been analyzed and proven to contain rubidium of up to 6 parts per million.

Rubidium is also considered the 16th most common element found in the Earth’s crust. Rubidium is in pollucite, leucite and zinnwaldite, which contain about 1% and in the oxide form. It is found in lepidolite (Rb2 (FOH) 2Al2 (SiO3) 3) as much as 1.5% and is commercially produced from this material.

In the primary commercial production process of rubidium, a small amount of rubidium is obtained from the remaining alkali metal carbonate mixture after the lithium salt is extracted from lepidolite. Especially potassium carbonate containing about 23 percent rubidium and 3 percent cesium carbonate.

In addition, some common rubidium compounds are: rubidium chloride (RbCl), rubidium monoxide (Rb2O) and copper sulphate rubidium (Rb2SO4 · CuSO4 · 6H20) (Read Sodium Sulfate Functions in Daily Life)

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If the sample metal has a large enough surface area, rubidium can burn to form superoxide. Rubidium superoxide (RbO2) is a yellow powder. Rubidium peroxide (Rb2O2) may be formed by oxidation of the metal by the amount of oxygen required. Rubidium forms two other oxides (Rb2O and Rb2O3). (Read Common Uses for the Oxygen)

Natural rubidium is about 0.01 percent of the Earth’s crust; rubidium exists as a mixture of two isotopes: rubidium-85 (72.15 percent) and radioactive rubidium-87 (27.85 percent), which emit a beta beam with a half-life of about 6 × 1011 years.

A large number of radioactive isotopes have been prepared artificially, from rubidium-79 to rubidium-95. One estimate of the age of the solar system is 4.6 billion years based on the rubidium-87 ratio for strontium-87 in rocky meteorites. Rubidium readily loses single valence electrons, but not loses another, seen from oxidation numbers of 1, but some compounds containing anions, Rb-, have been synthesized. (Read Common Radioactive Isotopes Used in Medicine)

The Rubidium element has:

Atomic number: 37
Atomic weight: 85.4678
Melting point: 312.46 K (39.31 ° C or 102.76 ° F)
Boiling Point: 961 K (688 ° C or 1270 ° F)
Density: 1.53 grams / cm3
Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
Classification of elements: Metals
Period number: 5
Group number: IA
Group Name: Alkali Metal
Estimated abundance in the earth’s crust: 9.0 × 101 milligrams per kilogram
Estimation of abundance at sea: 1.2 × 10-1 milligrams per liter
Number of Stable Isotopes: 1
Energy ionization: 4.177 eV
Oxidation number: +1
Electron Configuration: 1s2 2s2 2P6 3S2 3P6 3d10 4s2 4P6 5s1

The main difficulty associated with the production of pure rubidium is that rubidium is always found together with cesium in nature and also mixed with other alkali metals. Because these elements are very chemically similar, their separation process encountered many problems before the advent of ion-exchange methods and certain ion-complexing agents such as crown ether.

After the pure salt is prepared, the separation of rubidium is an easy task. Then we will discuss Rubidium [R] – Reduction Method

Rubidium [R] – Reduction Method

The method used to extract rubidium is by using the reduction method. the rubidium metal is prepared by reducing the melt of the RbCl compound according to the reaction:
Na + RbCl <-> Rb + NaCl
This reaction is in equilibrium. Because Rubidium is volatile, rubidium can be produced continuously in the same way as a potassium reduction process. (Read Arabian Chemists Who First Developed Apparatus For Distilling Mixtures

If we talk about uses of rubidium in everyday life, we know that rubidium and its salts have little commercial use.

1. This metal is used in the manufacture of photocells and cleaning of gas residue from vacuum tubes (as getter).

Rubidium is used in photoelectric filaments that convert light energy into electrical energy.

2. The rubidium salt is used in glass, ceramics, and fireworks to give the purple color.

It has also been used in the manufacture of special glass.

3. Super thin batteries

RbAg4I5 is very important because it has the highest room temperature as a conductor between ion crystals. At a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, the conductivity is the same as that of sulfuric acid. This trait allows rubidium to be used in applications for super-thin batteries and other applications.

4. Engine fuel for spacecraft

Because rubidium is very easy to be ionized, this element was once thought of as an ion engine fuel for spacecraft. However, cesium is a bit more efficient for this.

5. As proppellant in an ion machine on a spacecraft.

Because it is easily ionized, it may be used as a propellant in an ion machine on a spacecraft. (Read Hydrogen Uses in Everyday Life)

6. Steam turbine drive fluid and for electro-heat generators

This element has also been proposed for use as a steam turbine drive fluid and for electro-heat generators using a magnetohydrodynamic working principle in which rubidium ions are formed by heat energy at high temperatures and through magnetic fields. These ions then deliver electricity and work like an amature generator that can produce electricity.  

7. As standard frequencies

Rubidium atomic clocks, or standard frequencies, have been built, but they are not as precise as cesium atomic clocks.

8. Needed for the survival of some living things (eg by plants).

9.Used as a catalyst for several chemical reactions.

10.The radioactive properties of rubidium-87 are used in geology (to determine the age of rocks or other objects).

In addition to the rubidium-strontium technique, other techniques are also used to determine the age of rocks such as uranium-tin changes, and potassium-argon alteration technique.

The things that we should pay attention for is the health effects of Rubidium

  • We should be careful if rubidium may act as moderate toxin if get swallowed.
  • Rubidium is easy to react with moisture of the skin then forms rubidium hedroxid, causes thermal burns to the eyes and skin.
  • Immediately wash skin and rubidium affected eyes with running water. If irritation occurs, contact your doctor immediately.

That’s all the uses of rubidium in everyday life. Hope this article is helpful to understand uses of rubidium.