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Electrochemical Reduction of Nitrate

Introduction

Due to the increasing use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, livestock manure in intensive agriculture, and industrial and municipal effluent discharge, nitrate contamination in ground and surface water is a common problem in numerous worldwide countries. This pollution represents a risk not only to aquatic ecosystems (e.g. eutrophication) but also for human health (e.g. digestive system cancer and methemoglobinemia) [1, 2]. For this reason, the World Health Organization recommends a maximum limit of 50 mg.l-1 (NO3-) for nitrate concentration in drinking water.

To date, several methods have been used to remove nitrate. Biological denitrification is attractive for converting nitrate to nitrogen but cannot treat toxic or nitrate-rich sources (e.g. more than 2000 mg.l-1) [3]. Extractive methods (e.g. electrodialysis, reverse osmosis, ion exchange resins) are very effective but produce nitrate concentrates [4], which must be treated later.