The electrochemical reduction of nitrates in aqueous solutions thereof in the presence of amides to gaseous nitrogen (N.sub.2) is described. Generally, electrochemical reduction of NO.sub.3 proceeds stepwise, from NO.sub.3 to N.sub.2, and subsequently in several consecutive steps to ammonia (NH.sub.3) as a final product. Addition of at least one amide to the solution being electrolyzed suppresses ammonia generation, since suitable amides react with NO.sub.2 to generate N.sub.2. This permits nitrate reduction to gaseous nitrogen to proceed by electrolysis. Suitable amides include urea, sulfamic acid, formamide, and acetamide.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERAL RIGHTS
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U. S. Department of Energy to The Regents of The University of California. The government has certain rights in the invention.