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Tellurium Speciation Analysis of Soil Samples Taken from an Area Associated with the Storage, Processing, and Recovery of Electrowaste


During recent years increasing amounts of Technology Critical Elements (TCE) are being released to the environment as a result of the growing use of electronic and industrial products. The growing release to the environment calls for an understanding of their mobility, reactivity, and chemical transformation, all of which are critically depend on their chemical form (speciation). One of the Less Studied Technology Critical Elements (LSTCE) is tellurium (Te), which is increasingly used in rewritable CDs and DVDs, solar panels, and in semiconductor applications but has also been used to vulcanize rubber or to tint glass and ceramics. Although the chemical properties of Te are well known information about its chemical behavior in natural systems is limited. The dominant species under ordinary environmental conditions (neutral pH, oxic system) should be those of Te(IV), while Te(VI) species will be potent oxidants. Anyhow, information about the Te(IV)/Te(VI) ratio in natural systems are lacking due to the extremely low concentrations. Te is considered to be toxic and teratogenic, with tellurite (Te(IV)) believed to be more toxic than tellurate, Te(VI).  Electrowaste (e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste stream and is an important source of precious metals belonging to TCE. In order to better understand the environmental impact of contaminated e-waste areas, speciation analysis for Te seems to be mandatory.

The New study:
In view of this situation, Katarzyna Grygoyc and Magdalena Jabłonska-Czapla from Poland developed, optimized and validated a method for extracting and determining inorganic ionic Te(VI) and Te(IV) species in easily-leached fractions of polluted soil by Ion Chromatography-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (IC-ICP-MS). Polluted soil samples were treated by sequential chemical extraction indicating that tellurium was associated mainly with sulphides, organic matter, and silicates.  Using 100 mM citric acid as the extractant, about 20% of the Te was extracted. Using a Hamilton PRPX100 column separation and detection of Te(VI) and Te(IV) was achieved within 4 min with detection limits of 2 µg/kg and 4 µg/kg respectively. Both species were observed in the tested soil samples with a tendency of higher Te(IV) fraction.   

The authors concluded that their methods allowed for the speciation analysis of Te in soil samples, warranting more detailed analysis of the distribution of Te under different environmental conditions.

The cited study:

Katarzyna Grygoyc, Magdalena Jabłonska-Czapla, Development of a Tellurium Speciation Study Using IC-ICP-MS on Soil Samples Taken from an Area Associated with the Storage, Processing, and Recovery of Electrowaste, Molecules, 26 (2021) 2651. DOI: 10.3390/molecules26092651

Used Instrumentation:

PerkinElmer DRC-e ICP-MS system
PerkinElmer HPLC 200 system

Related studies (newest first):

Magdalena Jabłońska-Czapla, Katarzyna Grygoyć, Speciation and Fractionation of Less-Studied Technology-Critical Elements (Nb, Ta, Ga, In, Ge, Tl, Te): A Review, Pol. J. Environ. Stud., 30/2 (2021) 1477-1486. DOI: 10.15244/pjoes/127281

X.X. Ou, C. Wang, M. He, B.B. Chen, B. Hu, Online simultaneous speciation of ultra-trace inorganic antimony and tellurium in environmental water by polymer monolithic capillary microextraction combined with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Spectrochim. Acta B, 168 (2020) 105854. DOI: 10.1016/j.sab.2020.105854

M. Llaver, R.G. Wuilloud, Studying the effect of an ionic liquid on cloud point extraction technique for highly efficient preconcentration and speciation analysis of tellurium in water, soil and sediment samples, Talanta, 212 (2020) 120802. DOI: 10.1016/j.talanta.2020.120802

Man He, Shaowei Su, Beibei Chen, Bin Hu, Simultaneous speciation of inorganic selenium and tellurium in environmental water samples by polyaniline functionalized magnetic solid phase extraction coupled with ICP-MS detection, Talanta, 207 (2020) 120314. DOI: 10.1016/j.talanta.2019.120314

S.M. Hayes, N.A. Ramos, Surficial geochemistry and bioaccessibility of tellurium in semiarid mine tailigs. Environ. Chem., 16 (2019) 251–265. DOI: 10.1071/EN18215

Liam A. Bullocka, Magali Perez, Joseph G. Armstrong, John Parnell, John Still, Joerg Feldmann, Selenium and tellurium resources in Kisgruva Proterozoic volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit (Norway), Ore Geology Reviews 99 (2018) 411–424. DOI: 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2018.06.023

M. Chen, L.C. Wu, X. Yi, K.Z. Yang, H.G. Xie, Tellurium speciation in a bioleaching solution by hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectrometry. Anal. Methods, 9/20 (2017) 3061–3066. DOI: 10.1039/c7ay00866j

Justyna Wojcieszek, Joanna Szpunar, Ryszard Lobinski, Speciation of technologically critical elements in the environment using chromatography with element and molecule specific detection, Trends Anal. Chem., 104 (2018) 42-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2017.09.018

Y. Ogra, Biology and toxicology of tellurium explored by speciation analysis, Metallomics, 9/5 (2017) 435-441. DOI: 10.1039/c7mt00022g

H.B. Qin, Y. Takeichi, H. Nitani, Y. Terada, Y. Takahashi, Tellurium Distribution and Speciation in Contaminated Soils from Abandoned Mine Tailings: Comparison with Selenium. Environ. Sci. Technol., 51 (2017) 6027–6035. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b00955

Y.W. Chen, A. Alzahrani, T.L. Deng, N. Belzile, Valence properties of tellurium in different chemical systems and its determination in refractory environmental samples using hydride generation-atomic fluorescence spectroscopy. Anal. Chim. Acta, 905 (2016) 42–50. DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2015.11.035

M.S. El-Shahawi, H.M. Al-Saidi, E.A. Al-Harbi, A.S. Bashammakh, A.A. Alsibbai, Speciation and Determination of Tellurium in Water, Soil, Sediment and other Environmental Samples, in: S. Bakirdewre (ed.), Speciation Studies in Soil, Sediment and Environmental Samples, CRC Press, Boca Roaton, (2013) 527-544. DOI: 10.1201/b15501-16

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