Selenium is an important rare metal and its recovery from waste and wastewater is necessary for its sustainable utilization. Microbial selenium volatilization is suitable for selenium recovery from industrial wastewater because volatile selenium can be recovered in recyclable forms free from other chemicals. We found that Pseudomonas stutzeri NT-I can aerobically transform selenate, selenite, and biogenic elemental selenium into dimethyldiselenide as well as dimethylselenide; these were temporarily accumulated in the aqueous phase and then transferred into the gaseous phase. The rate of selenium volatilization using strain NT-I ranged 6.5-7.6 μmol/L/h in flask experiments and was much higher than the rates reported previously for other microbes. The selenium volatilization rate accelerated to 14 μmol/L/h in a jar fermenter. Furthermore, 82% of the selenium volatilized using strain NT-I was recovered with few impurities within 48 h in a simple gas trap with nitric acid, demonstrating that strain NT-I is a promising biocatalyst for selenium recovery through biovolatilization from the aqueous phase.
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