Environmental Technologies for Contaminated Solids, Soils and Sediments
1st cohort

Lucian Staicu

Production of colloidal biogenic selenium and removal by different coagulation-flocculation approaches

Selenium (Se) is a chalcogen element with a narrow window between essentiality and toxicity. The toxicity is mainly related to the chemical speciation that Se undergoes under changing redox conditions. Se oxyanions, namely selenite (Se[IV], SeO32-) and selenite (Se[VI], SeO42-), are water-soluble, bioavailable and toxic. In contrast, elemental selenium, Se(0), is solid and less toxic. Nevertheless, Se(0) nanoparticles are potentially harmful as particulate Se(0) has been reported to be bioavailable to filter feeding mollusks (e.g. bivalves) and fish. Furthermore, Se(0) is prone to re-oxidation to toxic SeO32- and SeO42- when discharged into aquatic ecosystems.
Biogenic Se(0) under investigation was produced by the reduction of Na2SeO4 under anaerobic conditions using a mixed bacterial inoculum (anaerobic granular sludge) and through the reduction of Na2SeO3 under aerobic conditions using a pure microbial culture (Pseudomonas moraviensis stanleyae, a novel strain identified and characterized for the first time herein). Both types of Se(0) showed strong colloidal stability within the 2-12 pH range. The colloidal stability is caused by the negatively charged (-15 mV to -30 mV) biopolymer layer covering biogenic Se(0) particles and by their nanometer size. The particle size of Se(0) produced by anaerobic granular sludge ranged between 50 and 300 nm, with an average size of 166 nm. Conversely, the Se(0) particles produced by Pseudomonas moraviensis stanleyae are characterized by a lower diameter (~ 100 nm).
The solid-liquid separation potential of Se(0) was assessed by centrifugation, filtration, coagulation-flocculation and electrocoagulation. While all approaches can bring about Se(0) removal from suspension with various degrees of success, electrocoagulation using iron sacrificial electrodes showed the highest removal efficiency (97%). Because biogenic Se(0) is harmful to the environment, appropriate measures must be implemented for the solid-liquid separation using an efficient technology.