A novel process, compressed air-assisted solvent extraction (CASX), was developed to generate micro-sized solvent-coated air bubbles (MSAB) for metal extraction. Through pressurization of solvent with compressed air followed by releasing air-oversaturated solvent into metal-containing wastewater, MSAB were generated instantaneously. The enormous surface area of MSAB makes extraction process extremely fast and achieves very high aqueous/solvent weight ratio (A/S ratio). CASX process completely removed Cr(VI) from acidic electroplating wastewater under A/S ratio of 115 and extraction time of less than 10 s. When synthetic wastewater containing Cd(II) of 50 mg l(-1) was treated, A/S ratios of higher than 714 and 1190 could be achieved using solvent with extractant/diluent weight ratio of 1: 1 and 5:1, respectively. Also, MSAB have very different physical properties, such as size and density, compared to the emulsified solvent droplets, making separation and recovery of solvent from treated effluent very easy. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.