Scientists said today they have created a new biofuel made from whisky by-products which could be used to help power cars currently on the road.
Edinburgh Napier University has filed a patent for the product, which can be used in ordinary cars without any special adaptions.
The biofuel has been developed over two years by the university’s Biofuel Research Centre.
As part of the research, the centre was provided with samples of whisky distilling by-products from Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery in Tranent, East Lothian.
It uses the two main by-products from the whisky production process – ‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains, as the basis to produce the butanol that can then be used as fuel.
The university now plans to create a ‘spin-out’ company to take the new fuel to the marketplace.
Professor Martin Tangney, who is leading the research and is director of the Biofuel Research Centre, said: ‘The EU has declared that biofuels should account for 10 per cent of total fuel sales by 2020.
‘We’re committed to finding new, innovative renewable energy sources.
‘The new biofuel is made from biological material which has been already generated. Theoretically it could be used entirely on its own but you would have to find a company to distribute it.
Research: The biofuel can be used in normal cars without special adaptions
‘The most likely form of distribution of the biofuel would be a blend of perhaps five per cent or 10 per cent of the biofuel with petrol or diesel but 5 per cent or 10 per cent means less oil which would make a big, big difference.
‘This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one Scotland’s biggest industries.
‘We’ve worked with some of the country’s leading whisky producers to develop the process.’
The £260,000 research project was funded by Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept programme.
Lena Wilson, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, said: ‘This pioneering research is testament to Scotland’s world-class science base and demonstrates how Scottish Enterprise helps to transform cutting-edge knowledge into successful new high-growth sustainable businesses for Scotland.
‘By proactively taking innovative ideas from the laboratory to the global market place, Scotland can continue to compete at the highest level and successfully boost its economic recovery.’
Future: ‘Pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains, are taken from whisky production to make butanol
Scottish Government Energy Minister Jim Mather said: ‘This is an innovative development, and I am delighted to see Edinburgh Napier University once again display its expertise in this field by bringing this biofuel to market.
‘I support the development and use of sustainable biofuels. This innovative use of waste products demonstrates a new sustainable option for the biofuel industry, while also supporting the economic and environmental objectives of the Scottish Government’s new Zero Waste Plan.’
WWF Scotland’s director, Dr Richard Dixon, said: ‘Scotch whisky is world-renowned and one of Scotland’s biggest exports, so it is great to see plans that could not only help power the cars on our roads and reduce fossil fuel emissions but also help reduce the environmental impacts of the industry itself.
‘The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife.
‘So, whisky-powered cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels.’