Edinburgh University Researchers Turn Whisky Dregs Into Fuel for Everyday Cars

Future fuel consumption rates may be measured in Miles to the Dram.



Researchers in Edinburgh have created a biofuel out of the by-products of whisky that is so powerful it can be used in an unmodified car. The biobutanol, a next-gen biofuel, is made using the pot ale and the draff–that’s the liquid found at the bottom of whisky distilling containers, or stills, and the used grain. The $404,000 project has proved so successful that the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University has applied for a patent.

Professor Martin Tangney is Director of the university’s Biofuel
Research Centre. “While some energy companies are growing crops
specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials
such as whisky by-products to develop them,” he said. “This is a more
environmentally sustainable option and potential offers new revenue on
the back of one of Scotland’s biggest industries.”

The whisky biofuel is yet another innovation coming out of Scotland at the moment. It’s powering ahead on the tidal energy front, as we saw yesterday, and there’s a whisky-fueled power station in the pipeline. Drinks firm Diageo allowed the team to distill by-products from its Glenkinchie Distillery, to the southeast of Edinburgh.

What could be strange is the prospect of whisky-fueled biofuels being available to buy on garage forecourts, alongside
gas and diesel. Drinking and driving don’t mix, and the sale of alcohol
on the roadside is prohibited in the U.K. We may be seeing variations
on this (forward to 1 min 16 sec) should the biobutanol be a success.

[Most excellent image from Iain J. Watson‘s Flickrstream]

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S