Metal of the Month: Ruthenium

As February comes to a close, it is now time for the metal of the month: ruthenium.

Ruthenium was the last of the six platinum metals to be discovered after palladium, iridium, osmium, platinum and rhodium.

Ruthenium was initially found in the Ural mountains

It is one of the rarest metals on Earth and is mainly found in the Ural mountains, USA and South Africa.

Its discovery was attributed to Karl Karlovich Klaus, a Russian chemist who extracted and purified the new lustrous and silvery white metal while investigating the waste residues of a platinum refinery in 1844. The name ‘ruthenium’ comes from the latin word ‘Ruthenia’, meaning Russia, as the ruthenium ores were initially discovered in the Russian Ural mountains.

Ruthenium is one of the most effective hardeners for platinum and palladium and is alloyed with these metals to make electrical contacts for wear resistance.  It is used in chip resistors and in electrical contacts in alloys and filaments, in jewelry and in pen nibs. In addition, the inorganic dye ammoniated ruthenium oxychloride, also known as ruthenium red, is used in electron microscopy for staining  nucleic acids and pectins.

Ruthenium can be used in new solar cells

Interestingly, some ruthenium complexes can absorb light and have been employed in dye-synthesised solar cells, a new low cost solar cell system which has the ability to absorbe light through smog and weather conditions that would normally inhibit light absorption.

To our knowledge, ruthenium has no known biological role, but has a great potential as anti-cancer drugs. Some compounds based on ruthenium have been developed and tested against cancer cell lines and resulted in less severe side effects compared to the more established platinum drugs. Promising ruthenium-based drugs are currently under clinical evaluation against some metastatic tumours and colon cancers.

Ruthenium is often used in fountain pen nibs

To know more about the properties of ruthenium and its applications, please access the papers below. They will be free for you to enjoy until March 20th.

You can also take a look at the RSC Visual Element Periodic Table, and the Chemistry in its Element podcast. And if you work in the area of ruthenium biology, we hope you will consider submitting your next paper to Metallomics.

Distinct cellular fates for KP1019 and NAMI-A determined by X-ray fluorescence imaging of single cells
Jade B. Aitken ,  Sumy Antony ,  Claire M. Weekley ,  Barry Lai ,  Leone Spiccia and Hugh H. Harris
Metallomics, 2012, 4, 1051-1056
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT20072D

Contrasting cellular uptake pathways for chlorido and iodido iminopyridine ruthenium arene anticancer complexes
Isolda Romero-Canelón ,  Ana M. Pizarro ,  Abraha Habtemariam and Peter J. Sadler
Metallomics, 2012, 4, 1271-1279
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT20189E

Ruthenium red is a biological stain used in electron microscopy

Mechanism of interstrand migration of organoruthenium anticancer complexes within a DNA duplex
Kui Wu ,  Qun Luo ,  Wenbing Hu ,  Xianchan Li ,  Fuyi Wang ,  Shaoxiang Xiong and Peter J. Sadler
Metallomics, 2012, 4, 139-148
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT00162D

Combination of metallomics and proteomics to study the effects of the metallodrug RAPTA-T on human cancer cells
Dirk A. Wolters ,  Maria Stefanopoulou ,  Paul J. Dyson and Michael Groessl
Metallomics, 2012, 4, 1185-1196
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT20070H

Cellular uptake and subcellular distribution of ruthenium-based metallodrugs under clinical investigation versus cisplatin
Michael Groessl ,  Olivier Zava and Paul J. Dyson
Metallomics, 2011, 3, 591-599
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00101E

Inhibitory effect of platinum and ruthenium bipyridyl complexes on porcine pancreatic phospholipase A2
Tina Kamčeva ,  Jörg Flemmig ,  Bojana Damnjanović ,  Jürgen Arnhold ,  Aleksandar Mijatović and Marijana Petković
Metallomics, 2011, 3, 1056-1063
DOI: 10.1039/C1MT00088H

All images are courtesy of Shutterstock.

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