The chalcogens selenium (Se) and tellurium (Te) are rare earth elements, which are mainly present in the environment as toxic oxyanions, due to the anthropogenic activities. Thus, the increased presence of these chalcogen-species in the environment and the contamination of wastewaters nearby processing facilities led to the necessity in developing remediation strategies aimed to detoxify waters, soils and sediments. Among the different decontamination approaches, those based on the ability of microorganisms to bioaccumulate, biomethylate or bioconvert Se- and/or Te-oxyanions are considered the leading strategy for achieving a safe and eco-friendly bioremediation of polluted sites. Recently, several technologies based on the use of bacterial pure cultures, bacterial biofilms or microbial consortia grown in reactors with different configurations have been explored for Se- and Te-decontamination purposes. Further, the majority of microorganisms able to process chalcogen-oxyanions have been described to generate valuable Se- and/or Te-nanomaterials as end-products of their bioconversion, whose potential applications in biomedicine, optoelectronics and environmental engineering are still under investigation. Here, the occurrence, the use and the toxicity of Se- and Te-compounds will be briefly overviewed, while the microbial mechanisms of chalcogen-oxyanions bioprocessing, as well as the microbial-based strategies used for bioremediation approaches will be extensively described.
Part of the book: Biosorption