A pulsed microwave surfaguide discharge operating at 2.45 GHz was used for the conversion of molecular nitrogen into valuable compounds in several gas mixtures: N2:O2, N2:O2:CO2 and N2:CO2. The ro-vibrational absorption bands of the molecular species were monitored by a Fourier transform infrared apparatus in the post-discharge region in order to evaluate the relative number density of species, specifically NO production. The effects of specific energy input, pulse frequency, gas flow fraction, gas admixture and gas flow rate were studied for better understanding and optimization of the NO production yield and the corresponding energy cost (EC). By both the experiment and modelling, a highest NO yield is obtained at N2:O2 (1:1) gas ratio in N2:O2 mixture. The NO yield reveals a small growth followed by saturation when pulse repetition frequency increases. The energy efficiency start decreasing after the energy input reaches about 5 eV/molec, whereas the NO yield rises steadily at the same time. The lowest EC of about 8 MJ mol−1 corresponding to the yield and the energy efficiency of about 7% and 1% are found, respectively, in an optimum discharge condition in our case.