Use of a two-step process to denitrification of synthetic brines: electroreduction in a dual-chamber cell and catalytic reduction

  • Thiago Favarini Beltrame
  • Fernanda Miranda ZoppasEmail author
  • Luciano Marder
  • Fernanda Albana Marchesini
  • Eduardo Miró
  • Andrea Moura Bernardes
Research Article


Membrane separation processes are being currently applied to produce drinking water from water contaminated with nitrate. The overall process generates a brine with high nitrate/nitrite concentration that is usually send back to a conventional wastewater treatment plant. Catalytic processes to nitrate reduction are being studied, but the main goal of achieving a high selectivity to nitrogen production is still a matter of research. In this work, a two-step process was evaluated, aiming to verify the best combination of operational parameters to efficiently reduce nitrate to nitrogen. In the first step, the nitrate was reduced to nitrite by electroreduction, applying a copper electrode and different cell potentials. A second step of the process was carried out by reducing the generated nitrite with a catalytic process by hydrogenation. The results showed that the highest nitrate reduction (89%) occurred when a cell potential of 11 V was applied. In this condition, the nitrite ion was generated with all experimental conditions evaluated. Then, to reduce the nitrite ion formed by catalytic reduction, activated carbon fibers (ACF) and powder γ-alumina (γ-Al2O3) were tested as supports for palladium (Pd). With both catalysts, the total nitrite conversion was obtained, being the selectivity to gaseous compounds 94% and 97% for Pd/Al2O3 and Pd/ACF, respectively. Considering the results obtained, a two-stage treatment setup to brine denitrification may be proposed. With electrochemistry, an operating condition was achieved in which ammonium production can be controlled to very low values, but the reduction is predominant to nitrite. With the second step, all nitrite is converted to nitrogen gas and just 3% of ammonium is produced with the most selective catalyst. The main novelty of this work is associated to the use of a two-stage process enabling 89% of nitrate reduction and 100% of nitrite reduction.


Electroreduction Catalytic reduction Nitrate Nitrite 



The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support received from ANPCyT (PICT) (2014-1379, 2014-2408), UNL, the Project CAPES-MERCOSUR (CAPG-BA), CYTED and the Brazilian financial support from FINEP, FAPERGS, CNPq, and CAPES. Thanks also to Florencia Agustina Sosa for the revision of the English usage.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratório de CorrosãoProteção e Reciclagem de Materiais (LACOR, UFRGS)Porto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones en Catálisis y Petroquímica (FIQ, UNL-CONICET)Santa FeArgentina

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