Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 10159–10173 | Cite as

Systematic study on the reduction efficiency of ascorbic acid and thiourea on selenate and selenite at high and trace concentrations

  • Gongli Zhang
  • Mario Alberto GomezEmail author
  • Shuhua Yao
  • Xu Ma
  • Shifen Li
  • Xuan Cao
  • Shuyan Zang
  • Yongfeng JiaEmail author
Research Article


Selenate (Se(VI)) and selenite (Se(IV)) are common soluble wastewater pollutants in natural and anthropogenic systems. We evaluated the reduction efficiency and removal of low (0.02 and 2 mg/L) and high (20 and 200 mg/L) Se(IV)(aq) and Se(VI)(aq) concentrations to elemental (Se0) via the use of ascorbic acid (AA), thiourea (TH), and a 50–50% mixture. The reduction efficiency of AA with Se(IV)(aq) to nano- and micro-crystalline Se0 was ≥ 95%, but ≤ 5% of Se(VI)(aq) was reduced to Se(IV)(aq) with no Se0. Thiourea was able to reduce ≤ 75% of Se(IV)(aq) to bulk Se0 at lower concentrations but was more effective (≥ 90%) at higher concentrations. Reduction of Se(VI)(aq)→Se (IV)(aq) with TH was ≤ 75% at trace concentrations which steadily declined as the concentrations increased, and the products formed were elemental sulfur (S0) and SnSe8−n phases. The reduction efficiency of Se(IV)(aq) to bulk Se0 upon the addition of AA+TH was ≤ 81% at low concentrations and ≥ 90% at higher concentrations. An inverse relation to what was observed with Se(IV)(aq) was found upon the addition of AA+TH with Se(VI)(aq). At low Se(VI)(aq) concentrations, AA+TH was able to reduce more effectively (≤ 61%) Se(VI)(aq)→Se(IV)(aq)→Se0, while at higher concentrations, it was ineffective (≤ 11%) and Se0, S0, and SnSe8−n formed. This work helps to guide the removal, reduction effectiveness, and products formed from AA, TH, and a 50–50% mixture on Se(IV)(aq) and Se(VI)(aq) to Se0 under acidic conditions and environmentally relevant concentrations possibly found in acidic natural waters, hydrometallurgical chloride processing operations, and acid mine drainage/acid rock drainage tailings.

Graphical Abstract


Ascorbic acid Thiourea Selenium Chloride Reduction Acidic ambient conditions 



We like to thank Yi-hang Duan at the Institute of Applied Ecology for the use of Raman and ATR-IR instruments. We also like to thank Chunxiang Gao at the SYUCT for the collection of the XRD data and Guangzhou Weiping Technology Service Co., Ltd. for TEM analysis. Finally, the authors would like to thank Baiyi Wang and Bing Han at SYUCT for additional experimental work used in the revision of this manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China No. 41703129 and the National Key R&D Program of China No. 2017 YFD 0800301.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_4383_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.9 mb)
Supplementary material The supporting information contains 6 Tables and 9 Figures not included in the main body of the text but discussed in the body of the manuscript. (DOCX 2974 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environment ProtectionShenyang University of Chemical TechnologyShenyangChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Pollution Ecology and Environmental Engineering, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina

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