Rubidium

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Rubidium (play /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. The atomic weight is 85.4678. Elemental rubidium is very soft and highly reactive, with properties similar to other elements in group 1, such as very rapid oxidation in air. Rubidium has one stable isotope,85Rb. The isotope 87Rb which composes almost 28% of naturally occurring rubidium is slightly radioactive, with a half-life of 49 billion years—more than three times longer than the estimated age of the universe.

Two 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: it is actively taken up by plants and by living animal cells.

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