It was discovered in 1861 by Sir William Crookes, who, during a spectroscopic examination of the flue-dust produced in the roasting of seleniferous pyrites occurring at Tilkerode in the Harz, observed a green line foreign to all then known spectra.
It is occasionally found in the native condition, but more frequently in combination with metals in the form of selenides, the more important seleniferous minerals being euchairite, crookesite, clausthalite, naumannite and zorgite.
The element is usually obtained from the flue dust or chamber deposits of sulphuric-acid works in which a seleniferous pyrites is burned.
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