August 20, 2010 / 12:00 AM / 9 years ago

Scottish scientists brew up whisky biofuel

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Scientists in Scotland have unveiled a new biofuel made from whisky by-products that they say can power ordinary cars more efficiently than ethanol.

Professor Martin Tangey, Director of Edinburgh Napier University Biofuel Research Centre, holds a glass of whisky during a media viewing in Edinburgh, Scotland August 17, 2010. REUTERS/David Moir

A research team from Edinburgh’s Napier University spent two years creating the biofuel butanol that can be used in gas tanks either as a stand-alone fuel or blended with petrol or diesel, they announced this week.

It is derived from distillation by-products pot ale (liquid from copper stills) and draff (the spent grains).

The method is based on an old process that was developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar.

Is this the answer for critics of corn-based, energy-intensive ethanol?

“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them,” Professor Martin Tangey, director of Napier’s Biofuel Research Center told the Financial Times.

“This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one of Scotland’s biggest industries.”

Global exports of Scotch whisky rose to a record $4.85 billion last year. Exports of Scotch have risen about 45 percent in the past 10 years.

The biofuel project cost about $400,000 and was funded by the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme. It is no joke, although the blogosphere is overflowing with the descriptions such as: “Whisky to go?” and “One for the road?”

The group has filed for a patent and plans to open a commercial venture to market the product.

Writing by Carla Tonelli, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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