(pronounced /səˈliːniəm/) is a chemical element with the atomic number 34, represented by the chemical symbol Se, an atomic mass of 78.96. It is a nonmetal, chemically related to sulfur and tellurium, and rarely occurs in its elemental state in nature. It is toxic in large amounts, but trace amounts of it are necessary for cellular function in most, if not all, animals, forming the active center of the enzymes glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase (which indirectly reduce certain oxidized molecules in animals and some plants) and three known deiodinase enzymes (which convert one thyroid hormone to another). Selenium requirements in plants differ by species, with some plants apparently requiring none.


Isolated selenium occurs in several different forms, the most stable of which is a dense purplish-gray semi-metal (semiconductor) form that is structurally a trigonal polymer chain. It conducts electricity better in the light than in the dark, and is used in photocells (see allotropes section below). Selenium also exists in many non-conductive forms: a black glass-like allotrope, as well as several red crystalline forms built of eight-membered ring molecules, like its lighter chemical cousin sulfur.

Selenium is found in economic quantities in sulfide ores such as pyrite, partially replacing the sulfur in the ore matrix. Minerals that are selenide or selenate compounds are also known, but all are rare.

Selenium is a common byproduct of copper refining, or the production of sulfuric acid.

Isolation of selenium is often complicated by the presence of other compounds and elements. Commonly, production begins by oxidation with sodium carbonate to produce selenium dioxide. The selenium dioxide is then mixed with water producing selenous acid. The selenous acid is finally bubbled with sulfur dioxide producing elemental red amorphous selenium.

Selenium produced in chemical reactions invariably appears as the amorphous red form--an insoluble, brick-red powder. When this form is rapidly melted, it forms the black, vitreous form which is usually sold industrially as beads. The most thermodynamically stable and dense form of selenium is the electrically conductive gray (trigonal) form, which is composed of long helical chains of selenium atoms. The conductivity of this form is notably light sensitive. Selenium also exists in three different deep-red crystalline monoclinic forms, which are composed of Se8 molecules, similar to many allotropes of sulfur.


The base value of each unit of ranges between 4 and 14Ð per unit, with up to 4 units being found at any one time.

Presence on Mars: Common

Martian Minerals
Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6
Group 2 |Argon | Bromine | Cadmium | Gallium | Germanium | Gold | Helium III | Krypton | Molybdenum | Neon | Niobium | Nitrogen | |Palladium | Rhodium | Rubidium | Ruthenium | Scandium | Selenium | Silver | Strontium | Technetium | Titanium | Vanadium | |Yttrium | Zirconium|

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