Abstract The electrochemical oxidation reactions of α- and β-alanine at a Pt electrode were investigated in aqueous solutions at pH 1, 7, and 13 using steady-state current—potential measurements, cyclic voltammetry, and open circuit potential decay. The capacitance behaviour and the high Tafel slopes suggest the production of free radicals at the surface of the electrode accompanied by a second reaction involving loss of CO 2 which is the rate determining step. In the surface electro-oxidation of α-alanine, it appears that the adsorbed intermediate species is either hydrolyzed anodically to acetaldehyde and ammonia, or is oxidized to a carbonium ion which is subsequently hydrolyzed to acetaldehyde and ammonia in solution, analogous to the behaviour observed for glycine [D.G. Marangoni, R.S. Smith and S.G. Roscoe, Can. J. Chem., 67 (1989) 921]. The mechanisms for β-alanine would be similar except carbonium ion formation would probably be accompanied by a hydride transfer to form acetaldehyde. No dimerized products were detected by gas chromatography. These mechanisms differ from the dimerization process typical of the radical reactions associated with the Kolbe mechanism.