Selenium is a chemical element with symbol Se and atomic number 34. It is a nonmetal (more rarely considered a metalloid) with properties that are intermediate between the elements above and below in the periodic table, sulfur and tellurium, and also has similarities to arsenic. It rarely occurs in its elemental state or as pure ore compounds in the Earth's crust. Selenium (from Ancient Greek σελήνη (selḗnē) "Moon") was discovered in 1817 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius, who noted the similarity of the new element to the previously discovered tellurium (named for the Earth).
Selenium is found in metal sulfide ores, where it partially replaces the sulfur. Commercially, selenium is produced as a byproduct in the refining of these ores, most often during production. Minerals that are pure selenide or selenate compounds are known but rare. The chief commercial uses for selenium today are glassmaking and pigments. Selenium is a semiconductor and is used in photocells. Applications in electronics, once important, have been mostly replaced with silicon semiconductor devices. Selenium is still used in a few types of DC power surge protectors and one type of fluorescent quantum dot.
Selenium salts are toxic in large amounts, but trace amounts are necessary for cellular function in many organisms, including all animals. Selenium is an ingredient in many multivitamins and other dietary supplements, including infant formula. It is a component of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase (which indirectly reduce certain oxidized molecules in animals and some plants). It is also found in three deiodinase enzymes, which convert one thyroid hormone to another. Selenium requirements in plants differ by species, with some plants requiring relatively large amounts and others apparently requiring none.
|Appearance||black, red, and gray (not pictured) allotropes|
|Standard atomic weight Ar, std(Se)||78.971(8)|
|Selenium in the periodic table|
|Atomic number (Z)||34|
|Group||group 16 (chalcogens)|
|Element category||reactive nonmetal, sometimes considered a metalloid|
|Electron configuration||[Ar] 3d10 4s2 4p4|
Electrons per shell
|2, 8, 18, 6|
|Phase at STP||solid|
|Melting point||494 K (221 °C, 430 °F)|
|Boiling point||958 K (685 °C, 1265 °F)|
|Density (near r.t.)||gray: 4.81 g/cm3 |
alpha: 4.39 g/cm3
vitreous: 4.28 g/cm3
|when liquid (at m.p.)||3.99 g/cm3|
|Critical point||1766 K, 27.2 MPa|
|Heat of fusion||gray: 6.69 kJ/mol|
|Heat of vaporization||95.48 kJ/mol|
|Molar heat capacity||25.363 J/(mol·K)|
|Oxidation states||−2, −1, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6 (a strongly acidic oxide)|
|Electronegativity||Pauling scale: 2.55|
|Atomic radius||empirical: 120 pm|
|Covalent radius||120±4 pm|
|Van der Waals radius||190 pm|
Spectral lines of selenium
|Crystal structure|| hexagonal|
|Speed of sound thin rod||3350 m/s (at 20 °C)|
|Thermal expansion||amorphous: 37 µm/(m·K) (at 25 °C)|
|Thermal conductivity||amorphous: 0.519 W/(m·K)|
|Magnetic susceptibility||−25.0·10−6 cm3/mol (298 K)|
|Young's modulus||10 GPa|
|Shear modulus||3.7 GPa|
|Bulk modulus||8.3 GPa|
|Brinell hardness||736 MPa|
|Naming||after Selene, Greek goddess of the moon|
|Discovery and first isolation||Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Johann Gottlieb Gahn (1817)|
|Main isotopes of selenium|
Selenium forms several allotropes that interconvert with temperature changes, depending somewhat on the rate of temperature change. When prepared in chemical reactions, selenium is usually an amorphous, brick-red powder. When rapidly melted, it forms the black, vitreous form, usually sold commercially as beads. The structure of black selenium is irregular and complex and consists of polymeric rings with up to 1000 atoms per ring. Black Se is a brittle, lustrous solid that is slightly soluble in CS2. Upon heating, it softens at 50 °C and converts to gray selenium at 180 °C; the transformation temperature is reduced by presence of halogens and amines.
The red α, β, and γ forms are produced from solutions of black selenium by varying the evaporation rate of the solvent (usually CS2). They all have relatively low, monoclinic crystal symmetries and contain nearly identical puckered Se8 rings with different arrangements, as in sulfur. The packing is most dense in the α form. In the Se8 rings, the Se-Se distance is 233.5 pm and Se-Se-Se angle is 105.7°. Other selenium allotropes may contain Se6 or Se7 rings.
The most stable and dense form of selenium is gray and has a hexagonal crystal lattice consisting of helical polymeric chains, where the Se-Se distance is 237.3 pm and Se-Se-Se angle is 130.1°. The minimum distance between chains is 343.6 pm. Gray Se is formed by mild heating of other allotropes, by slow cooling of molten Se, or by condensing Se vapor just below the melting point. Whereas other Se forms are insulators, gray Se is a semiconductor showing appreciable photoconductivity. Unlike the other allotropes, it is insoluble in CS2. It resists oxidation by air and is not attacked by nonoxidizing acids. With strong reducing agents, it forms polyselenides. Selenium does not exhibit the changes in viscosity that sulfur undergoes when gradually heated.
Selenium has seven naturally occurring isotopes. Five of these, 74Se, 76Se, 77Se, 78Se, 80Se, are stable, with 80Se being the most abundant (49.6% natural abundance). Also naturally occurring is the long-lived primordial radionuclide 82Se, with a half-life of 9.2×1019 years. The non-primordial radioisotope 79Se also occurs in minute quantities in uranium ores as a product of nuclear fission. Selenium also has numerous unstable synthetic isotopes ranging from 64Se to 95Se; the most stable are 75Se with a half-life of 119.78 days and 72Se with a half-life of 8.4 days. Isotopes lighter than the stable isotopes primarily undergo beta plus decay to isotopes of arsenic, and isotopes heavier than the stable isotopes undergo beta minus decay to isotopes of bromine, with some minor neutron emission branches in the heaviest known isotopes.
|79Se||Trace||Fission product||327000 yr|
|82Se||Natural||Fission product||~1020 yr|
Selenium compounds commonly exist in the oxidation states −2, +2, +4, and +6.
It is a polymeric solid that forms monomeric SeO2 molecules in the gas phase. It dissolves in water to form selenous acid, H2SeO3. Selenous acid can also be made directly by oxidizing elemental selenium with nitric acid:
Selenium disulfide consists of 8-membered rings. It has an approximate composition of SeS2, with individual rings varying in composition, such as Se4S4 and Se2S6. Selenium disulfide has been used in shampoo as an antidandruff agent, an inhibitor in polymer chemistry, a glass dye, and a reducing agent in fireworks.
Hot, concentrated selenic acid can react with gold to form gold(III) selenate.
Iodides of selenium are not well known. The only stable chloride is selenium monochloride (Se2Cl2), which might be better known as selenium(I) chloride; the corresponding bromide is also known. These species are structurally analogous to the corresponding disulfur dichloride. Selenium dichloride is an important reagent in the preparation of selenium compounds (e.g. the preparation of Se7). It is prepared by treating selenium with sulfuryl chloride (SO2Cl2). Selenium reacts with fluorine to form selenium hexafluoride:
In comparison with its sulfur counterpart (sulfur hexafluoride), selenium hexafluoride (SeF6) is more reactive and is a toxic pulmonary irritant. Some of the selenium oxyhalides, such as selenium oxyfluoride (SeOF2) and selenium oxychloride (SeOCl2) have been used as specialty solvents.
Analogous to the behavior of other chalcogens, selenium forms hydrogen selenide, H2Se. It is a strongly odiferous, toxic, and colorless gas. It is more acidic than H2S. In solution it ionizes to HSe−. The selenide dianion Se2− forms a variety of compounds, including the minerals from which selenium is obtained commercially. Illustrative selenides include mercury selenide (HgSe), lead selenide (PbSe), zinc selenide (ZnSe), and copper indium gallium diselenide (Cu(Ga,In)Se2). These materials are semiconductors. With highly electropositive metals, such as aluminium, these selenides are prone to hydrolysis:
Alkali metal selenides react with selenium to form polyselenides, Se2−
n, which exist as chains.
Tetraselenium tetranitride, Se4N4, is an explosive orange compound analogous to tetrasulfur tetranitride (S4N4). It can be synthesized by the reaction of selenium tetrachloride (SeCl4) with [((CH
Selenium, especially in the II oxidation state, forms stable bonds to carbon, which are structurally analogous to the corresponding organosulfur compounds. Especially common are selenides (R2Se, analogues of thioethers), diselenides (R2Se2, analogues of disulfides), and selenols (RSeH, analogues of thiols). Representatives of selenides, diselenides, and selenols include respectively selenomethionine, diphenyldiselenide, and benzeneselenol. The sulfoxide in sulfur chemistry is represented in selenium chemistry by the selenoxides (formula RSe(O)R), which are intermediates in organic synthesis, as illustrated by the selenoxide elimination reaction. Consistent with trends indicated by the double bond rule, selenoketones, R(C=Se)R, and selenaldehydes, R(C=Se)H, are rarely observed.
Selenium (Greek σελήνη selene meaning "Moon") was discovered in 1817 by Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Johan Gottlieb Gahn. Both chemists owned a chemistry plant near Gripsholm, Sweden, producing sulfuric acid by the lead chamber process. The pyrite from the Falun mine created a red precipitate in the lead chambers which was presumed to be an arsenic compound, so the pyrite's use to make acid was discontinued. Berzelius and Gahn wanted to use the pyrite and they also observed that the red precipitate gave off a smell like horseradish when burned. This smell was not typical of arsenic, but a similar odor was known from tellurium compounds. Hence, Berzelius's first letter to Alexander Marcet stated that this was a tellurium compound. However, the lack of tellurium compounds in the Falun mine minerals eventually led Berzelius to reanalyze the red precipitate, and in 1818 he wrote a second letter to Marcet describing a newly found element similar to sulfur and tellurium. Because of its similarity to tellurium, named for the Earth, Berzelius named the new element after the Moon.
In 1873, Willoughby Smith found that the electrical resistance of grey selenium was dependent on the ambient light. This led to its use as a cell for sensing light. The first commercial products using selenium were developed by Werner Siemens in the mid-1870s. The selenium cell was used in the photophone developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1879. Selenium transmits an electric current proportional to the amount of light falling on its surface. This phenomenon was used in the design of light meters and similar devices. Selenium's semiconductor properties found numerous other applications in electronics. The development of selenium rectifiers began during the early 1930s, and these replaced copper oxide rectifiers because they were more efficient. These lasted in commercial applications until the 1970s, following which they were replaced with less expensive and even more efficient silicon rectifiers.
Selenium came to medical notice later because of its toxicity to industrial workers. Selenium was also recognized as an important veterinary toxin, which is seen in animals that have eaten high-selenium plants. In 1954, the first hints of specific biological functions of selenium were discovered in microorganisms by biochemist, Jane Pinsent. It was discovered to be essential for mammalian life in 1957. In the 1970s, it was shown to be present in two independent sets of enzymes. This was followed by the discovery of selenocysteine in proteins. During the 1980s, selenocysteine was shown to be encoded by the codon UGA. The recoding mechanism was worked out first in bacteria and then in mammals (see SECIS element).
Native (i.e., elemental) selenium is a rare mineral, which does not usually form good crystals, but, when it does, they are steep rhombohedra or tiny acicular (hair-like) crystals. Isolation of selenium is often complicated by the presence of other compounds and elements.
Selenium occurs naturally in a number of inorganic forms, including selenide, selenate, and selenite, but these minerals are rare. The common mineral selenite is not a selenium mineral, and contains no selenite ion, but is rather a type of gypsum (calcium sulfate hydrate) named like selenium for the moon well before the discovery of selenium. Selenium is most commonly found as an impurity, replacing a small part of the sulfur in sulfide ores of many metals.
In living systems, selenium is found in the amino acids selenomethionine, selenocysteine, and methylselenocysteine. In these compounds, selenium plays a role analogous to that of sulfur. Another naturally occurring organoselenium compound is dimethyl selenide.
Certain soils are selenium-rich, and selenium can be bioconcentrated by some plants. In soils, selenium most often occurs in soluble forms such as selenate (analogous to sulfate), which are leached into rivers very easily by runoff. Ocean water contains significant amounts of selenium.
Anthropogenic sources of selenium include coal burning, and the mining and smelting of sulfide ores.
Selenium is most commonly produced from selenide in many sulfide ores, such as those of copper, nickel, or lead. Electrolytic metal refining is particularly productive of selenium as a byproduct, obtained from the anode mud of copper refineries. Another source was the mud from the lead chambers of sulfuric acid plants, a process that is no longer used. Selenium can be refined from these muds by a number of methods. However, most elemental selenium comes as a byproduct of refining copper or producing sulfuric acid. Since its invention, solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX/EW) production of copper produces an increasing share of the worldwide copper supply. This changes the availability of selenium because only a comparably small part of the selenium in the ore is leached with the copper.
Industrial production of selenium usually involves the extraction of selenium dioxide from residues obtained during the purification of copper. Common production from the residue then begins by oxidation with sodium carbonate to produce selenium dioxide, which is mixed with water and acidified to form selenous acid (oxidation step). Selenous acid is bubbled with sulfur dioxide (reduction step) to give elemental selenium.
About 2,000 tonnes of selenium were produced in 2011 worldwide, mostly in Germany (650 t), Japan (630 t), Belgium (200 t), and Russia (140 t), and the total reserves were estimated at 93,000 tonnes. These data exclude two major producers, the United States and China. A previous sharp increase was observed in 2004 from 4–5 to $27/lb. The price was relatively stable during 2004–2010 at about US$30 per pound (in 100-pound lots) but increased to $65 /lb in 2011. The consumption in 2010 was divided as follows: metallurgy – 30%, glass manufacturing – 30%, agriculture – 10%, chemicals and pigments – 10%, and electronics – 10%. China is the dominant consumer of selenium at 1,500–2,000 tonnes/year.
During the electrowinning of manganese, the addition of selenium dioxide decreases the power necessary to operate the electrolysis cells. China is the largest consumer of selenium dioxide for this purpose. For every tonne of manganese, an average 2 kg selenium oxide is used.
The largest commercial use of Se, accounting for about 50% of consumption, is for the production of glass. Se compounds confer a red color to glass. This color cancels out the green or yellow tints that arise from iron impurities typical for most glass. For this purpose, various selenite and selenate salts are added. For other applications, a red color may be desired, produced by mixtures of CdSe and CdS.
Selenium is used with bismuth in brasses to replace more toxic lead. The regulation of lead in drinking water applications such as in the US with the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, made a reduction of lead in brass necessary. The new brass is marketed under the name EnviroBrass. Like lead and sulfur, selenium improves the machinability of steel at concentrations around 0.15%. Selenium produces the same machinability improvement in copper alloys.
The lithium–selenium (Li–Se) battery is one of the most promising systems for energy storage in the family of lithium batteries. The Li–Se battery is an alternative to the lithium–sulfur battery, with an advantage of high electrical conductivity.
Amorphous selenium (α-Se) thin films have found application as photoconductors in flat panel x-ray detectors. These detectors use amorphous selenium to capture and convert incident x-ray photons directly into electric charge.
Selenium rectifiers were first used in 1933. Their use continued into the 1990s.
The demand for selenium by the electronics industry is declining. Its photovoltaic and photoconductive properties are still useful in photocopying, photocells, light meters and solar cells. Its use as a photoconductor in plain-paper copiers once was a leading application, but in the 1980s, the photoconductor application declined (although it was still a large end-use) as more and more copiers switched to organic photoconductors. Though once widely used, selenium rectifiers have mostly been replaced (or are being replaced) by silicon-based devices. The most notable exception is in power DC surge protection, where the superior energy capabilities of selenium suppressors make them more desirable than metal oxide varistors.
Zinc selenide was the first material for blue LEDs, but gallium nitride dominates that market. Cadmium selenide was an important component in quantum dots. Sheets of amorphous selenium convert X-ray images to patterns of charge in xeroradiography and in solid-state, flat-panel X-ray cameras. Ionized selenium (Se+24) is one of the active mediums used in X-ray lasers.
Selenium is a catalyst in some chemical reactions, but it is not widely used because of issues with toxicity. In X-ray crystallography, incorporation of one or more selenium atoms in place of sulfur helps with multiple-wavelength anomalous dispersion and single wavelength anomalous dispersion phasing.
Selenium is used in the toning of photographic prints, and it is sold as a toner by numerous photographic manufacturers. Selenium intensifies and extends the tonal range of black-and-white photographic images and improves the permanence of prints.
75Se is used as a gamma source in industrial radiography.
Although it is toxic in large doses, selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. In plants, it occurs as a bystander mineral, sometimes in toxic proportions in forage (some plants may accumulate selenium as a defense against being eaten by animals, but other plants, such as locoweed, require selenium, and their growth indicates the presence of selenium in soil). See more on plant nutrition below.
Selenium is a component of the unusual amino acids selenocysteine and selenomethionine. In humans, selenium is a trace element nutrient that functions as cofactor for reduction of antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidases and certain forms of thioredoxin reductase found in animals and some plants (this enzyme occurs in all living organisms, but not all forms of it in plants require selenium).
The thyroid gland and every cell that uses thyroid hormone use selenium, which is a cofactor for the three of the four known types of thyroid hormone deiodinases, which activate and then deactivate various thyroid hormones and their metabolites; the iodothyronine deiodinases are the subfamily of deiodinase enzymes that use selenium as the otherwise rare amino acid selenocysteine. (Only the deiodinase, iodotyrosine deiodinase, which works on the last breakdown products of thyroid hormone, does not use selenium.)
Selenium may inhibit Hashimoto's disease, in which the body's own thyroid cells are attacked as alien. A reduction of 21% on TPO antibodies is reported with the dietary intake of 0.2 mg of selenium.
Increased dietary selenium reduces the effects of mercury toxicity, although it is effective only at low to modest doses of mercury. Evidence suggests that the molecular mechanisms of mercury toxicity includes the irreversible inhibition of selenoenzymes that are required to prevent and reverse oxidative damage in brain and endocrine tissues. An antioxidant, selenoneine, which is derived from selenium and has been found to be present in the blood of bluefin tuna, is the subject of scientific research regarding its possible roles in inflammatory and chronic diseases, methylmercury detoxification, and oxidative damages.
From about three billion years ago, prokaryotic selenoprotein families drive the evolution of selenocysteine, an amino acid. Selenium is incorporated into several prokaryotic selenoprotein families in bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes as selenocysteine, where selenoprotein peroxiredoxins protect bacterial and eukaryotic cells against oxidative damage. Selenoprotein families of GSH-Px and the deiodinases of eukaryotic cells seem to have a bacterial phylogenetic origin. The selenocysteine-containing form occurs in species as diverse as green algae, diatoms, sea urchins, fish, and chickens. Selenium enzymes are involved in the small reducing molecules glutathione and thioredoxin. One family of selenium-bearing molecules (the glutathione peroxidases) destroys peroxide and repairs damaged peroxidized cell membranes, using glutathione. Another selenium-bearing enzyme in some plants and in animals (thioredoxin reductase) generates reduced thioredoxin, a dithiol that serves as an electron source for peroxidases and also the important reducing enzyme ribonucleotide reductase that makes DNA precursors from RNA precursors.
Trace elements involved in GSH-Px and superoxide dismutase enzymes activities, i.e. selenium, vanadium, magnesium, copper, and zinc, may have been lacking in some terrestrial mineral-deficient areas. Marine organisms retained and sometimes expanded their selenoproteomes, whereas the selenoproteomes of some terrestrial organisms were reduced or completely lost. These findings suggest that, with the exception of vertebrates, aquatic life supports selenium use, whereas terrestrial habitats lead to reduced use of this trace element. Marine fishes and vertebrate thyroid glands have the highest concentration of selenium and iodine. From about 500 million years ago, freshwater and terrestrial plants slowly optimized the production of "new" endogenous antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), polyphenols (including flavonoids), tocopherols, etc. A few of these appeared more recently, in the last 50–200 million years, in fruits and flowers of angiosperm plants. In fact, the angiosperms (the dominant type of plant today) and most of their antioxidant pigments evolved during the late Jurassic period.
The deiodinase isoenzymes constitute another family of eukaryotic selenoproteins with identified enzyme function. Deiodinases are able to extract electrons from iodides, and iodides from iodothyronines. They are, thus, involved in thyroid-hormone regulation, participating in the protection of thyrocytes from damage by H2O2 produced for thyroid-hormone biosynthesis. About 200 million years ago, new selenoproteins were developed as mammalian GSH-Px enzymes.
Dietary selenium comes from nuts, cereals and mushrooms. Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source (though this is soil-dependent, since the Brazil nut does not require high levels of the element for its own needs).
The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for teenagers and adults is 55 µg/day. Selenium as a dietary supplement is available in many forms, including multi-vitamins/mineral supplements, which typically contain 55 or 70 µg/serving. Selenium-specific supplements typically contain either 100 or 200 µg/serving.
The selenium content in the human body is believed to be in the 13–20 milligram range.
Certain species of plants are considered indicators of high selenium content of the soil because they require high levels of selenium to thrive. The main selenium indicator plants are Astragalus species (including some locoweeds), prince's plume (Stanleya sp.), woody asters (Xylorhiza sp.), and false goldenweed (Oonopsis sp.)
Selenium may be measured in blood, plasma, serum, or urine to monitor excessive environmental or occupational exposure, to confirm a diagnosis of poisoning in hospitalized victims, or investigate a suspected case of fatal overdose. Some analytical techniques are capable of distinguishing organic from inorganic forms of the element. Both organic and inorganic forms of selenium are largely converted to monosaccharide conjugates (selenosugars) in the body prior elimination in the urine. Cancer patients receiving daily oral doses of selenothionine may achieve very high plasma and urine selenium concentrations.
Although selenium is an essential trace element, it is toxic if taken in excess. Exceeding the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 400 micrograms per day can lead to selenosis. This 400 µg Tolerable Upper Intake Level is based primarily on a 1986 study of five Chinese patients who exhibited overt signs of selenosis and a follow up study on the same five people in 1992. The 1992 study actually found the maximum safe dietary Se intake to be approximately 800 micrograms per day (15 micrograms per kilogram body weight), but suggested 400 micrograms per day to avoid creating an imbalance of nutrients in the diet and to accord with data from other countries. In China, people who ingested corn grown in extremely selenium-rich stony coal (carbonaceous shale) have suffered from selenium toxicity. This coal was shown to have selenium content as high as 9.1%, the highest concentration in coal ever recorded.
Signs and symptoms of selenosis include a garlic odor on the breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, fatigue, irritability, and neurological damage. Extreme cases of selenosis can exhibit cirrhosis of the liver, pulmonary edema, or death. Elemental selenium and most metallic selenides have relatively low toxicities because of low bioavailability. By contrast, selenates and selenites have an oxidant mode of action similar to that of arsenic trioxide and are very toxic. The chronic toxic dose of selenite for humans is about 2400 to 3000 micrograms of selenium per day. Hydrogen selenide is an extremely toxic, corrosive gas. Selenium also occurs in organic compounds, such as dimethyl selenide, selenomethionine, selenocysteine and methylselenocysteine, all of which have high bioavailability and are toxic in large doses.
On 19 April 2009, 21 polo ponies died shortly before a match in the United States Polo Open. Three days later, a pharmacy released a statement explaining that the horses had received an incorrect dose of one of the ingredients used in a vitamin/mineral supplement compound that had been incorrectly prepared by a compounding pharmacy. Analysis of blood levels of inorganic compounds in the supplement indicated the selenium concentrations were ten to fifteen times higher than normal in the blood samples, and 15 to 20 times higher than normal in the liver samples. Selenium was later confirmed to be the toxic factor.
Selenium poisoning of water systems may result whenever new agricultural runoff courses through normally dry, undeveloped lands. This process leaches natural soluble selenium compounds (such as selenates) into the water, which may then be concentrated in new "wetlands" as the water evaporates. Selenium pollution of waterways also occurs when selenium is leached from coal flue ash, mining and metal smelting, crude oil processing, and landfill. The resultant high selenium levels in waterways were found to cause congenital disorders in oviparous species, including wetland birds and fish. Elevated dietary methylmercury levels can amplify the harm of selenium toxicity in oviparous species.
In fish and other wildlife, selenium is necessary for life, but toxic in high doses. For salmon, the optimal concentration of selenium is about 1 microgram selenium per gram of whole body weight. Much below that level, young salmon die from deficiency; much above, they die from toxic excess.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (Permissible exposure limit) for selenium in the workplace at 0.2 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a Recommended exposure limit (REL) of 0.2 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday. At levels of 1 mg/m3, selenium is immediately dangerous to life and health.
Selenium deficiency can occur in patients with severely compromised intestinal function, those undergoing total parenteral nutrition, and in those of advanced age (over 90). Also, people dependent on food grown from selenium-deficient soil are at risk. Although New Zealand soil has low levels of selenium, adverse health effects have not been detected in the residents.
Selenium deficiency, defined by low (<60% of normal) selenoenzyme activity levels in brain and endocrine tissues, occurs only when a low selenium level is linked with an additional stress, such as high exposures to mercury or increased oxidant stress from vitamin E deficiency.
Selenium interacts with other nutrients, such as iodine and vitamin E. The effect of selenium deficiency on health remains uncertain, particularly in relation to Kashin-Beck disease. Also, selenium interacts with other minerals, such as zinc and copper. High doses of Se supplements in pregnant animals might disturb the Zn:Cu ratio and lead to Zn reduction; in such treatment cases, Zn levels should be monitored. Further studies are needed to confirm these interactions.
In the regions (e.g. various regions within North America) where low selenium soil levels lead to low concentrations in the plants, some animal species may be deficient unless selenium is supplemented with diet or injection. Ruminants are particularly susceptible. In general, absorption of dietary selenium is lower in ruminants than other animals, and is lower from forages than from grain. Ruminants grazing certain forages, e.g., some white clover varieties containing cyanogenic glycosides, may have higher selenium requirements, presumably because cyanide is released from the aglycone by glucosidase activity in the rumen and glutathione peroxidases is deactivated by the cyanide acting on the glutathione moiety. Neonate ruminants at risk of white muscle disease may be administered both selenium and vitamin E by injection; some of the WMD myopathies respond only to selenium, some only to vitamin E, and some to either.
A number of correlative epidemiological studies have implicated selenium deficiency (measured by blood levels) in a number of serious or chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. In addition, selenium supplementation has been found to be a chemopreventive for some types of cancer in some types of rodents. One study of 118 exocrine pancreatic cancer (EPC) patients and 399 hospital controls in eastern Spain found high selenium concentrations to be inversely associated with the risk of EPC. In randomized, blinded, controlled prospective trials in humans, selenium supplementation has not succeeded in reducing the incidence of any disease, nor has a meta-analysis of such selenium supplementation studies detected a decrease in overall mortality.
The chalcogens () are the chemical elements in group 16 of the periodic table. This group is also known as the oxygen family. It consists of the elements oxygen (O), sulfur (S), selenium (Se), tellurium (Te), and the radioactive element polonium (Po). The chemically uncharacterized synthetic element livermorium (Lv) is predicted to be a chalcogen as well. Often, oxygen is treated separately from the other chalcogens, sometimes even excluded from the scope of the term "chalcogen" altogether, due to its very different chemical behavior from sulfur, selenium, tellurium, and polonium. The word "chalcogen" is derived from a combination of the Greek word khalkόs (χαλκός) principally meaning copper (the term was also used for bronze/brass, any metal in the poetic sense, ore or coin), and the Latinised Greek word genēs, meaning born or produced.Sulfur has been known since antiquity, and oxygen was recognized as an element in the 18th century. Selenium, tellurium and polonium were discovered in the 19th century, and livermorium in 2000. All of the chalcogens have six valence electrons, leaving them two electrons short of a full outer shell. Their most common oxidation states are −2, +2, +4, and +6. They have relatively low atomic radii, especially the lighter ones.Lighter chalcogens are typically nontoxic in their elemental form, and are often critical to life, while the heavier chalcogens are typically toxic. All of the chalcogens have some role in biological functions, either as a nutrient or a toxin. The lighter chalcogens, such as oxygen and sulfur, are rarely toxic and usually helpful in their pure form. Selenium is an important nutrient but is also commonly toxic. Tellurium often has unpleasant effects (although some organisms can use it), and polonium is always extremely harmful, both in its chemical toxicity and its radioactivity.
Sulfur has more than 20 allotropes, oxygen has nine, selenium has at least five, polonium has two, and only one crystal structure of tellurium has so far been discovered. There are numerous organic chalcogen compounds. Not counting oxygen, organic sulfur compounds are generally the most common, followed by organic selenium compounds and organic tellurium compounds. This trend also occurs with chalcogen pnictides and compounds containing chalcogens and carbon group elements.
Oxygen is generally extracted from air and sulfur is extracted from oil and natural gas. Selenium and tellurium are produced as byproducts of copper refining. Polonium and livermorium are most available in particle accelerators. The primary use of elemental oxygen is in steelmaking. Sulfur is mostly converted into sulfuric acid, which is heavily used in the chemical industry. Selenium's most common application is glassmaking. Tellurium compounds are mostly used in optical disks, electronic devices, and solar cells. Some of polonium's applications are due to its radioactivity.Hydrogen selenide
Hydrogen selenide is an inorganic compound with the formula H2Se. This hydrogen chalcogenide is the simplest and most commonly encountered hydride of selenium. H2Se is a colorless, flammable gas under standard conditions. It is the most toxic selenium compound with an exposure limit of 0.05 ppm over an 8-hour period. Even at extremely low concentrations, this compound has a very irritating smell resembling that of decayed horseradish or 'leaking gas', but smells of rotten eggs at higher concentrations.Isotopes of selenium
The chemical element selenium (34Se) has six natural isotopes that occur in significant quantities, along with the trace isotope 79Se, which occurs in minute quantities in uranium ores. Five of these isotopes are stable: 74Se, 76Se, 77Se, 78Se, and 80Se. The last three also occur as fission products, along with 79Se, which has a half-life of 327,000 years, and 82Se, which has a very long half-life (~1020 years, decaying via double beta decay to 82Kr) and for practical purposes can be considered to be stable. There are 23 other unstable isotopes that have been characterized, the longest-lived being 79Se with a half-life 327,000 years, 75Se with a half-life of 120 days, and 72Se with a half-life of 8.40 days. Of the other isotopes, 73Se has the longest half-life, 7.15 hours; most others have half-lives not exceeding 38 seconds.Organoselenium chemistry
Organoselenium compounds are chemical compounds containing carbon-to-selenium chemical bonds. Organoselenium chemistry is the corresponding science exploring their properties and reactivity. Selenium belongs with oxygen and sulfur to the group 16 elements or chalcogens, and similarities in chemistry are to be expected.
Selenium can exist with oxidation state -2, +2, +4, +6. Se(II) is the dominant form in organoselenium chemistry. Down the group 16 column, the bond strength becomes increasingly weaker (234 kJ/mol for the C–Se bond and 272 kJ/mol for the C–S bond) and the bond lengths longer (C–Se 198 pm, C–S 181 pm and C–O 141 pm). Selenium compounds are more nucleophilic than the corresponding sulfur compounds and also more acidic. The pKa values of XH2 are 16 for oxygen, 7 for sulfur and 3.8 for selenium. In contrast to sulfoxides, the corresponding selenoxides are unstable in the presence of β-protons and this property is utilized in many organic reactions of selenium, notably in selenoxide oxidations and in selenoxide eliminations. Organoselenium compounds are found at trace levels in ambient waters, soils and sediments.The first organoselenium compound ever isolated was diethyl selenide in 1836.Photographic print toning
In photography, toning is a method of changing the color of black-and-white photographs. In analog photography, it is a chemical process carried out on silver-based photographic prints. This darkroom process cannot be performed with a color photograph. The effects of this process can be emulated with software in digital photography. There is debate whether a toned black-and-white photograph should be considered to still be black-and-white, as simply being monochromatic is not a sufficient condition for an image to count as black-and-white.Photophone
The photophone is a telecommunications device that allows transmission of speech on a beam of light. It was invented jointly by Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Charles Sumner Tainter on February 19, 1880, at Bell's laboratory at 1325 L Street in Washington, D.C. Both were later to become full associates in the Volta Laboratory Association, created and financed by Bell.
On June 3, 1880, Bell's assistant transmitted a wireless voice telephone message from the roof of the Franklin School to the window of Bell's laboratory, some 213 meters (about 700 ft.) away.Bell believed the photophone was his most important invention. Of the 18 patents granted in Bell's name alone, and the 12 he shared with his collaborators, four were for the photophone, which Bell referred to as his "greatest achievement", telling a reporter shortly before his death that the photophone was "the greatest invention [I have] ever made, greater than the telephone".The photophone was a precursor to the fiber-optic communication systems that achieved worldwide popular usage starting in the 1980s. The master patent for the photophone (U.S. Patent 235,199 Apparatus for Signalling and Communicating, called Photophone) was issued in December 1880, many decades before its principles came to have practical applications.Selenium (software)
Selenium is a portable framework for testing web applications. Selenium provides a playback (formerly also recording) tool for authoring functional tests without the need to learn a test scripting language (Selenium IDE). It also provides a test domain-specific language (Selenese) to write tests in a number of popular programming languages, including C#, Groovy, Java, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby and Scala. The tests can then run against most modern web browsers. Selenium deploys on Windows, Linux, and macOS platforms. It is open-source software, released under the Apache 2.0 license: web developers can download and use it without charge.Selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency is relatively rare in healthy well-nourished individuals. Few cases in humans have been reported.Selenium dioxide
Selenium dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula SeO2. This colorless solid is one of the most frequently encountered compounds of selenium.Selenium disulfide
Selenium disulfide is a medication used to treat pityriasis versicolor, seborrhoeic dermatitis, and dandruff. It is applied to the affected area as a lotion or shampoo. Dandruff frequently returns if treatment is stopped.Side effects include hair loss, irritation of the skin, weakness, and feeling tired. Use is not recommended in children less than 2–5 years old. Use in pregnancy or breastfeeding has not been studied. Selenium disulfide is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula SeS2.Selenium disulfide was approved for medical use in the United States at least as early as 1951. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Selenium disulfide is available as a generic medication and over the counter. In the United States a month of treatment costs less than 25 USD. In the United Kingdom 100 ml of 2.5% shampoo costs the NHS about 1.96 pounds.Selenium hexafluoride
Selenium hexafluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula SeF6. It is a colourless gas described as having a "repulsive" odor. It is not widely encountered and has no commercial applications.Selenium in biology
Although it is toxic in large doses, selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. In plants, it sometimes occurs in toxic amounts as forage, e.g. locoweed. Selenium is a component of the amino acids selenocysteine and selenomethionine. In humans, selenium is a trace element nutrient that functions as cofactor for glutathione peroxidases and certain forms of thioredoxin reductase. Selenium-containing proteins are produced from inorganic selenium via the intermediacy of selenophosphate (PSeO33−).Selenium monochloride
Selenium monochloride is an inorganic compound with the formula Se2Cl2. Although it is called selenium monochloride, a more descriptive name might be diselenium dichloride. It is a reddish-brown, oily liquid that hydrolyses slowly. It exists in chemical equilibrium with SeCl2, SeCl4, chlorine, and elemental selenium. Selenium monochloride is mainly used as a reagent for the synthesis of Se-containing compounds.Selenium tetrachloride
Selenium tetrachloride is the inorganic compound composed with the formula SeCl4. This compound exists as yellow to white volatile solid. It is one of two commonly available selenium chlorides, the other example being selenium monochloride, Se2Cl2. SeCl4 is used in the synthesis of other selenium compounds.Selenium tetrafluoride
Selenium tetrafluoride (SeF4) is an inorganic compound. It is a colourless liquid that reacts readily with water. It can be used as a fluorinating reagent in organic syntheses (fluorination of alcohols, carboxylic acids or carbonyl compounds) and has advantages over sulfur tetrafluoride in that milder conditions can be employed and it is a liquid rather than a gas.Selenium trioxide
Selenium trioxide is the inorganic compound with the formula SeO3. It is white, hygroscopic solid. It is also an oxidizing agent and a Lewis acid. It is of academic interest as a precursor to Se(VI) compounds.Sodium selenate
Sodium selenate is the inorganic compound with the formula Na2SeO4, not to be confused with sodium selenite. It exists as the anhydrous salt, the heptahydrate, and the decahydrate. These are white, water-soluble solids. The decahydrate is a common ingredient in multivitamins and livestock feed as a source of selenium. The anhydrous salt is used in the production of some glass. Although the selenates are much more toxic, many physical properties of sodium selenate and sodium sulfate are similar.Sodium selenite
Sodium selenite is the inorganic compound with the formula Na2SeO3. This salt is a colourless solid. The pentahydrate Na2SeO3(H2O)5 is the most common water-soluble selenium compound.Tellurium
Tellurium is a chemical element with symbol Te and atomic number 52. It is a brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white metalloid. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur. It is occasionally found in native form as elemental crystals. Tellurium is far more common in the universe as a whole than on Earth. Its extreme rarity in the Earth's crust, comparable to that of platinum, is due partly to its high atomic number, but also to its formation of a volatile hydride which caused it to be lost to space as a gas during the hot nebular formation of the planet.
Tellurium-bearing compounds were first discovered in 1782 in a gold mine in Zlatna, Romania by Austrian mineralogist Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein, although it was Martin Heinrich Klaproth who named the new element in 1798 after the Latin word for "earth", tellus. Gold telluride minerals are the most notable natural gold compounds. However, they are not a commercially significant source of tellurium itself, which is normally extracted as a by-product of copper and lead production.
Commercially, the primary use of tellurium is copper and steel alloys, where it improves machinability. Applications in CdTe solar panels and semiconductors also consume a considerable portion of tellurium production.
Tellurium has no biological function, although fungi can use it in place of sulfur and selenium in amino acids such as tellurocysteine and telluromethionine. In humans, tellurium is partly metabolized into dimethyl telluride, (CH3)2Te, a gas with a garlic-like odor exhaled in the breath of victims of tellurium exposure or poisoning.