This can be done by electrolysis of the fused cyanide or by reduction with calcium or sodium followed by fractional distillation.
Rubidium is difficult to handle because it ignites spontaneously in air, and it reacts violently with water to yield a solution of rubidium hydroxide (Rb OH) and hydrogen, which bursts into flames; rubidium is therefore kept in dry mineral oil or an atmosphere of hydrogen.
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Brine samples have also been analyzed that contain up to 6 parts per million of rubidium.
In the principal commercial process of rubidium production, small amounts of rubidium are obtained from the mixture of alkali metal carbonates remaining after lithium salts are extracted from lepidolite.
According to New World Encyclopedia, there was very little need or use for rubidium until the 1920s when it was used more frequently in research, chemical reactions, and electronic applications.
Rubidium atomic clocks, or frequency standards, have been constructed, but they are not as precise as cesium atomic clocks.
Rubidium and cesium are miscible in all proportions and have complete solid solubility; a melting-point minimum of 9 °C (48 °F) is reached. Because of the increased specific volume of rubidium, as compared with the lighter alkali metals, there is a lesser tendency for it to form alloy systems with other metals.
Rubidium is a silvery-white and very soft metal — and one of the most highly reactive elements on the periodic table.
Because these elements are very similar chemically, their separation presented numerous problems before the advent of ion-exchange methods and ion-specific complexing agents such as crown ethers.
Once pure salts have been prepared, it is a straightforward task to convert them to the free metal.