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Selenium toned print
MFA# 1980.331


A nonmetallic, powdery red element. Selenium was first identified by Jons Jakob Berzelius, a Swedish chemist, in 1817. Its abundance in the earth's crust is about 0.09 ppm with highest concentrations occurring in Vesuvian lavas and volcanic Tuff. Selenium is usually found in the sulfide ores of heavy metals and is obtained primarily as a by-product in Copper refining. It is used in photographic toning baths for silver prints and in the manufacture of red and pink Glass and glazes. Selenium is also used in electronics, cameras, photocells, solar batteries, light meters, and television screens.

Selenium toned print
MFA# 1999.416

Synonyms and Related Terms

Se; sélénium (Fr.); Selen (Deut.); selenio (It., Esp.); Selênio (Port.); Selen (Sven.)


  • Ingestion, inhalation and contact may cause irritation, nausea and burns.
  • Combustible, burns in air.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in dilute alkalis and potassium cyanide solutions.
  • Flame color is blue and smells of horseradish.
Composition Se (atomic no. 34)
CAS 7782-49-2
Melting Point 217 C
Density 4.5 g/ml
Molecular Weight atomic wt = 78.96
Boiling Point 685 C

Resources and Citations

  • Chemical & Engineering News, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 81 (36) , Sept. 8, 2003 Comment: by Liu Tungsheng; selenium discovered in 1817 by Jons Jakob Berzelius
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: Brady p.696
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 8572
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998 Comment: Baron Berzelius, a Swedish chemist
  • Photographic Chemicals: