Nanopulse atmospheric carbon monoxide discharges and corresponding afterglows have been investigated in a wide range of applied reduced electric field (130 < E/N < 200 Td) and different pulse durations (2–50 ns). The results have been obtained by solving an appropriate Boltzmann equation for the electron energy distribution function (EEDF) coupled to the kinetics of vibrational and electronic excited states as well as to a simplified plasma chemistry for the different species formed during the activation of CO. The molar fraction of electronically excited states generated in the discharge is sufficient to create structures in the EEDF in the afterglow regime. On the other hand, only for long duration pulses (i.e. 50 ns), non-equilibrium vibrational distributions can be observed especially in the afterglow. The trend of the results for the case study E/N = 200 Td,
ns is qualitatively and quantitatively similar to the corresponding case for CO2 implying that the activation of CO2 by cold plasmas should take into account the kinetics of formed CO with the same accuracy as the CO2 itself.