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What does it look, feel, taste, or smell like?
Rubidium is silvery white. It is a soft metal — ductile, meaning it can be drawn out into thin wire without breaking.
How was it discovered?
It was discovered in 1861 by two German chemists, Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff, using flame spectroscopy. Flame spectroscopy was a new technique at the time; scientists heat material with a flame and observe the spectrum of light the material emits.
Where did its name come from?
Bunsen and Kirchhoff named this element after the color of the light they observed from it with their spectroscope. The Latin word rubidus means red.
Where is it found?
What are its uses?
Rubidium is used in some fireworks, for its color. It is also used for various high-tech devices. It is used in vacuum tubes as a getter, a material that combines with and removes trace gases from inside the tubes, to keep the inside of the tube a vacuum. It is used in lasers and high-precision clocks. It is also used in the manufacture of photocells and in special kinds of glass. Since it is easily ionized, it might be used as a propellant in ion engines on spacecraft.
Is it dangerous?
Rubidium burns when exposed to water, like potassium.