Ruthenium was discovered in 1844 and named after the Latin word Ruthenia, meaning "Russia". Ruthenium is a rare metal, occurring in no more than 0.01 parts-per-million of the matter in the earth's crust. This metal has a grey-white appearance and a hard, brittle character. It also has a high melting temperature and its brittleness make it difficult to refine and cast into useful shapes. These properties seriously limit commercial applications.

Ruthenium is one of the platinum metals. Virtually all of the world's supply of ruthenium is recovered from the byproducts of platinum-refining operations.

Ruthenium is used as a hardener when it is alloyed with platinum. It has some application as a catalyst in the petroleum industry, in special alloys for electrical devices, electrical contacts and as electrodeposited coatings. Ruthenium is also used in jewellery alloyed with palladium.

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center