Rubidium is a silvery white, soft metal that exhibits many properties similar to those of cesium. Along with gallium and mercury, it is one of the three metals that are liquid at, or near room temperature. Rubidium is ranked 16th in abundance in the earth´s crust, roughly as abundant as zinc and rather more common than copper, however it is rarely concentrated to levels of interest for commercial extraction.
The principal source of rubidium is from certain highly evolved granitic rocks where the rubidium typically occurs in potassium feldspars and in lithium micas from which it is extracted commercially. There is a rubidium feldspar, known as ´rubicline´, which is relatively rare but has been documented in two of Avalon Ventures projects (see below).
APPLICATIONS OF RUBIDIUM
Ceramics and Specialty Glass: Rubidium feldsparcan be used in high voltage ceramic insulators where it has been demonstrated that the rubidium greatly increases insulating capacity and leads to reductions in current losses on major transmission lines. Rubidium carbonate glass is used in seeing--eye devices and may possibly be used for anti collision devices for cars.
Electronic and Electromotive: Rubidium behaves much like cesium and can be used in place of cesium in ion propulsion powered space probes, magnetometers or atomic clocks. Rubidium is also used in opto-electronic devices such as night vision glasses and photoelectric cells.
Energy: Rubidium can be used for ion propulsion systems in space exploration and for use in a thermoelectric generator using the magneto-hydrodynamic principle for power generation, although cesium has a greater potential for this application.
Science and Medical: Naturally occurring isotopes of rubidium decay to produce strontium isotopes and lend to science´s ability to age date very old rock strata. Rubidium is also alloyed to make mercury and gold amalgams.
Chemicals: Rubidium Chloride 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 does not normally occur in living organisms. Rubidium hydroxide is the starting material for most rubidium-based chemical processes; Rubidium carbonate is used in some optical glasses.
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Rubidium metal ignites in the air and reacts violently with water and can cause fires. To ensure both health and safety, and purity, this element must be kept under a dry mineral oil, in a vacuum, or in an inert atmosphere.
Rubidium has no biological role, but because of its chemical similarity to potassium, the human body can absorb it from our food. The average person has stores of about half a gram. It is not toxic, and is removed relatively quickly in perspiration and urine. However, taken in excess, it can be dangerous.
Limited supplies of rubidium constrain its use, but discovery of large new resources of rubidium in Avalon´s Separation Rapids rare metal pegmatites, and a smaller but higher-grade resource at Avalon´s Lilypad Lakes property, may create new supplies leading to expanded commercial applications.