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Rubidium is a soft, silvery-grey metallic element of the alkali metals group and is one of the most electropositive elements in nature. It has a high melting point and ignites spontaneously upon exposure to air at room temperature, burning in it with yellow flame. It combines with mercury, cesium and sodium to form amalgams. Its salts are poisonous, and it reacts violently with water and ice. It also readily dissolves in molten glass. It is also a highly radioactive element with a total of 5 stable isotopes (85Rb and 87Rb being the most common).
The demand for rubidium is small and what there is is mostly met from a stock of a mixed carbonate byproduct collected during the extraction of lithium from lepidolite. This material contains approximately 23 percent rubidium and 3 percent cesium.
Among the numerous uses of rubidium oxide, the most common is in atomic layer deposition (ALD). Unlike lithium oxide, which has similar properties, this compound is not toxic and does not react with oxygen to form rubidium hydroxide when exposed to air. It is also a very thermally stable material making it ideal for use in glass and ceramic applications.
rubidium oxide is also used in the synthesis of perovskite structured oxides that find application in solid-oxide fuel cells and oxygen generation systems. These materials are ionically conductive through the oxygen ions and rubidium cations that occupy distinct conduction planes within the crystal structure, making them a promising candidate for next generation fuel cell technology.