In the center of the chamber on the photo below you can see the hexagonally-shaped Macor glass-ceramic consisting of

  • Silicon dioxide $\ce{SiO2}~46\%$
  • Magnesium dioxide $\ce{MgO}~17\%$
  • Aluminum oxide $\ce{Al2O3}~16\%$
  • Potassium oxide $\ce{K2O}~10\%$
  • Boron oxide $\ce{B2O}~7\%$
  • Fluorine $\ce{F}~4\%$

The original color of Macor is white as you can see on the second picture on the side. I insert the rubidium into the chamber. It all became black at the temperature of approx. $\pu{150–200 °C}.$ What could rubidium possibly react with?

It was in the vacuum $\pu{E-8 Torr}.$ I have heard that the window material can also react with rubidium. Rubidium is in vapor state (according to optical spectrum at temperature $~\pu{100 °C}$ and $\pu{E-4 Torr}).$ Rubidium tends to condense on the cold part of the chamber, so it is possible to touch the ceramic.

I heat the chamber outside, so rubidium should be in vapor state inside of the chamber, and Macor is connected to the chamber, so it should be close but lower than the chamber temperature.

enter image description here enter image description here

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please explain ! Is the chamber in a vacuum ? Is the rubidium in the metallic state ? Does it touch the ceramic ? What do you heat ? The rubidium ? The ceramic ? Both ? $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Was it heated in air? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @maurice Yes, it is in vacuum $\endgroup$
    – Saesun Kim
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @oscarLanzi it was in the vacuum $\endgroup$
    – Saesun Kim
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is a nice question and an impressive setup. I took a liberty to improve the "storytelling" a little by minor tweaking the wording, notations and I also re-grouped some text blocks and illustrations so it is subjectively easier to follow. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 11:16

1 Answer 1


One candidate for reaction with the rubidium is silica, $\ce{SiO2}$. Reference [1] reports that black powders are formed when alkali metals are contacted with silica. Such powders are more stable in dry air than ordinary alkali metals. The reference suggests that electrons are imparted from the alkali metals into the silica forming an electride complex.


  1. Shatnawi, M.G., Paglia, Gianluca, Dye, James, Cram, Kevin, Lefenfeld, Michael, Billinge, Simon, "Structures of Alkali Metals in Silica Gel Nanopores: New Materials for Chemical Reductions and Hydrogen Production", Journal of the American Chemical Society 129, 1386-92 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1021/ja067140e

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