When you think of the periodic table, it’s likely that you picture highly technical devices and applications. In the case of ruthenium, that’s an accurate assumption, as this metal’s uses are almost always confined to high-tech settings.
Tough and Untarnished
A member of the platinum group, pure ruthenium is a transition metal that is extremely tough and does not tarnish at room temperature, though when it does oxidize, it does so explosively.
Like many other metals on the periodic table, Ruthenium has a number of uses as an alloy, a means of preventing corrosion, and a catalyst.
This element is most commonly found in mountainous mineral deposits in North and South America, but extraction requires an involved chemical process, and it is one of Earth’s rarest metals.
Ruthenium was first extracted in 1844 by Karl Ernst Klaus, though an impure form of the element was detected in 1827 as well. Since then, a range of uses have been implemented.
Ruthenium has no known biological role (in fact, ruthenium oxide is toxic), but there are still a number of applications where ruthenium proves useful. For example, it is extremely effective at hardening platinum, and is therefore commonly used in jewelry. It is also adept at hardening all other members of the platinum family.
Most commonly, ruthenium is used in the electronics industry for a variety of functions like chip resistors, or as a catalyst in chemical production. Being that it is highly conductive, alloys containing ruthenium are often important for making electrical contacts.
As this rare element is studied further, new uses continue to present themselves, and ruthenium may prove an important element for modern man.