Friday, November 6, 2009

November's Element of the Month: Ruthenium!

November's Element of the Month:
Ruthenium!

Ru

44

Atomic Mass: 101.07 amu
Melting Point: 2250 °C
Boiling Point: 3900 °C


With an atomic number like 44, you might expect Ruthenium to be one of your average, run-of-the mill elements. But no, it's only the 74th most abundant element here on the crust of the earth. It comes in right behind #73 Gold, which for some reason gets a lot more press. Ruthenium is a silvery whiteish metal, kind of like platinum and often found in the same places that platinum is. It was isolated and named in 1844 by the Estonian-born "Russian scientist" Karl Klaus, a man who clearly overcame considerable ethnic confusion on his way to scientific immortality.


The Centerfold!


Industrially, Ruthenium is apparently kind of a poor man's Rhodium, if that means anything to you. It's used in alloys, to harden platinum and palladium in electronic parts, to make titanium more corrosion-resistant, and in nickel-based combos to make high-performance metals like jet engine blades. It's also used to make the tips of your fancier brands of ball-point pens. True story. Ruthenium is apparently an earnest young element with high ideals, for there are hopes that it may become useful in new methods of generating solar power, in cancer treatment, and in cleanup of hydrogen sulfide.

If you are want some Ruthenium of your own, here's some good news: you've already got some! It's in your hard drive! If you want more, you might have to do some shopping around, as the human community only mines about 12 metric tons of the stuff per year. More good news: after a big price spike in 2007, it's back down to around only 90 bucks per ounce.

12 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I'm afraid I missed the other installments of this series, but I like this month's centerfold.

Of course, I only read M5K for the articles.

Michael5000 said...

@E: This is the first installment of the series. Which means, of course, that "Element of the Year 2010" is gonna be BRUTAL.

Ben said...

Ruth is my mom. Is there an element named Benenium?

gl. said...

i'm going to love this series.

Elaine said...

Is anyone else here suspicious of M5000 and "Ruthenium?" Because I am. (Squints eyes, doubting that an element is named for her grandmother.)

Anonymous said...

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Rebel said...

I may not be able to Guanzhuziji my life but I would like to enrich it's capriciousness with some Ruthenium.

Michael5000 said...

OK, first of all, I meant "2009" above, not "2010." Still a lame joke, though.

But OMG!!! It looks like Ben is Elaine's UNCLE! Small world....

@gl.: I thought you might...

@Rebel: Don't believe the spammer! You CAN Guanzhuziji your life!

Elaine said...

I do have a NEPHEW Ben.....hmmm

Aviatrix said...

Oh fake element names and properties would be a good quiz. There are going to be a few I don't know. When I learned the periodic table there were still names like Unnilhexium. But I'm pretty sure there is no Guanzhuzijium. If there were it would be a rare heavy metal naturally occurring in a calcite mineral.

Michael5000 said...

@Aviatrix: Yes! Try here and here! It has been two years, but Mrs.5000 is still fuming over the "Harmonium" fiasco!

Jenners said...

Thank goodness Rutheniusm is getting the recognition it deserves.