Rubidium is the chemical element with the symbol Rb and atomic number 37. It is a very soft, whitish-grey solid in the alkali metal group, similar to potassium and caesium. Rubidium is the first alkali metal in the group to have a density higher than water. On Earth, natural rubidium comprises two isotopes: 72% is a stable isotope 85Rb, and 28% is slightly radioactive 87Rb, with a half-life of 48. 8 billion years—more than three times as long as the estimated age of the universe.
German chemists Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff discovered rubidium in 1861 by the newly developed technique, flame spectroscopy. The name comes from the Latin word rubidus, meaning deep red, the color of its emission spectrum. Rubidium's compounds have various chemical and electronic applications. Rubidium metal is easily vaporized and has a convenient spectral absorption range, making it a frequent target for laser manipulation of atoms. Rubidium is not a known nutrient for any living organisms. However, rubidium ions have similar properties and the same charge as potassium ions, and are actively taken up and treated by animal cells in similar ways.