Rubidium | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Rubidium | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Exploring the Wonders of Rubidium: A Hidden Gem in the Periodic Table


In the vast realm of chemical elements, each possesses its own unique set of properties and characteristics that contribute to the rich tapestry of the periodic table. One such element that often flies under the radar is rubidium. With the chemical symbol Rb and atomic number 37, rubidium holds a fascinating place in the periodic table. Let's delve into the world of rubidium, exploring its atomic structure, properties, compounds, and its intriguing interactions with other elements.

Atomic Structure:

Rubidium is the 16th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, yet it remains relatively obscure. Its atomic number, 37, indicates the number of protons in its nucleus. With an atomic mass of approximately 85.47 atomic mass units (u), rubidium boasts an electron configuration of 1s² 2s² 2p⁶ 3s² 3p⁶ 4s² 3d¹⁰ 4p⁶ 5s¹. This lone valence electron in the outermost shell makes rubidium highly reactive, contributing to its intriguing chemical behavior.

Chemical and Physical Properties:

Rubidium exhibits both metallic and alkali metal properties. It is silvery-white in appearance and is soft enough to be easily cut with a knife. Like other alkali metals, rubidium has a low melting point and boiling point, at approximately 39.3°C (102.7°F) and 688°C (1270°F) respectively.

Its density of 1.532 grams per cubic centimeter places it among the less dense elements. Notably, rubidium possesses a high thermal and electrical conductivity, characteristics typical of metals.

Valency and Chemical Reactions:

Rubidium's valency, or its ability to combine with other elements to form compounds, is +1. This valency is a result of rubidium's tendency to lose its single valence electron to achieve a stable electron configuration, akin to other alkali metals.

In chemical reactions, rubidium readily forms compounds with elements like oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. For example, when exposed to air, rubidium rapidly reacts with oxygen to form rubidium oxide (Rb₂O). These reactions underscore rubidium's highly reactive nature and its eagerness to form chemical bonds.

Rubidium Compounds:

Beyond its elemental form, rubidium forms various compounds with different elements. Rubidium chloride (RbCl) and rubidium hydroxide (RbOH) are examples of rubidium compounds. These compounds find applications in different fields, including research and industry.

Occurrence and Production:

While rubidium is not as abundant as some other elements, it is present in various minerals, including lepidolite, pollucite, and carnallite. Extracting rubidium typically involves mining these minerals and subsequently processing them to isolate the element.

The primary method for producing pure rubidium involves electrolysis of molten rubidium chloride (RbCl). This process helps separate rubidium from other elements, yielding a purified form of this fascinating alkali metal.

Rubidium: Unveiling Uses and Fascinating Facts


1. Research and Scientific Investigations:

Rubidium is widely used in scientific research, particularly in physics and chemistry. Its properties, such as high reactivity and sensitivity to magnetic fields, make it valuable for experiments and studies.

2. Atomic Clocks:

Rubidium is a key component in some types of atomic clocks. These clocks utilize the precise vibrations of rubidium atoms to measure time accurately. They find applications in laboratories, navigation systems, and telecommunications.

3. Electronics:

Rubidium can be employed in electronics, specifically in the creation of photocells and photoelectric devices. Its ability to emit electrons when exposed to light makes it useful in certain electronic applications.

4. Specialized Glass Manufacturing:

Rubidium compounds are utilized in the production of special types of glass, such as infrared-transmitting glass. This glass is often used in the creation of optical instruments and devices.

5. Medical Applications:

In the field of medicine, rubidium-82, a radioactive isotope of rubidium, is employed in positron emission tomography (PET) scans. These scans help in imaging and diagnosing various medical conditions.

Rubidium Facts:

1. High Reactivity:

Rubidium is highly reactive and can spontaneously catch fire when exposed to air. Due to this reactivity, it is stored and handled under an inert atmosphere, usually in a sealed glass container.

2. Alkali Metal Traits:

As an alkali metal, rubidium shares characteristics with its group members, such as lithium and sodium. It is soft, has a low melting point, and reacts vigorously with water, producing hydrogen gas.

3. Abundance in Earth's Crust:

Despite being an alkali metal, rubidium is not as rare as some other elements. It ranks as the 23rd most abundant element in the Earth's crust, present in various minerals.

4. Colorful Flames:

 Like other alkali metals, rubidium imparts a distinctive color to flames when burned. The characteristic reddish-violet hue of rubidium flames contributes to its name, derived from the Latin word "rubidus," meaning dark red.

5. Radioactive Isotope:

Rubidium-87, a stable isotope of rubidium, is used in radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks and minerals. This dating method is particularly valuable in geology and archaeology.

6. Space Exploration Connection:

Rubidium has found applications in space exploration. For instance, rubidium atomic clocks have been utilized in satellites and space probes due to their accuracy in timekeeping.


Rubidium, with its unassuming place in the periodic table, offers a wealth of intrigue and scientific significance. From its atomic structure and physical properties to its chemical reactivity and compound formations, rubidium plays a crucial role in our understanding of the elemental world. As we continue to explore the depths of chemistry, the hidden gem that is rubidium remains a testament to the wonders that the periodic table has yet to reveal.

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