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Selenium is a chemical element with symbol Se and atomic number 34. It is a nonmetal with properties that are intermediate between those of its periodic table column-adjacent chalcogen elements sulfur and tellurium. It rarely occurs in its elemental state in nature, or as pure ore compounds. Selenium (Greek σελήνη selene meaning "Moon") was discovered in 1817 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius, who noted the similarity of the new element to the previously known 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 are rare. The chief commercial uses for selenium today are in glassmaking and in pigments. Selenium is a semiconductor and is used in photocells. Uses in electronics, once important, have been mostly supplanted by silicon semiconductor devices. Selenium continues to be 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.

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